Fruitfly bacteria block the spread of dengue virus

By infecting mosquitoes with bacteria from flies that commonly live in kitchen fruit bowls, researchers have stopped the insects spreading the dengue virus. The research was published today in two papers in the journal Nature.

The second paper shows how the fruitfly bacteria was established in wild mosquito populations, offering a practical and inexpensive way to stop transmission of dengue fever which affects 50 million people annually.

The strain of dengue-blocking bacteria, called wMel Wolbachia, was first discovered in Australian fruit flies in 1988 .

“It is amazing that Aussie fruit bacteria can effectively immunise mosquitoes against dengue, thereby preventing its spread to humans,” a study author said. “Our finding has the potential to halt the spread of the dengue virus which is vital as there is currently no vaccine and the geographical areas of infection are growing.”

The World Health Organisation ranks dengue fever as the most important mosquito-borne viral disease in the world, with an estimated 2.5 billion people living in dengue infected areas. The dengue virus mainly causes extreme fatigue and fever, but it kills around 1 in 500 infected people, mainly children. There have been around 2,400 cases of dengue infection in Northern Australia in recent years.

Read more at University of Melbourne