The Wolbachia Project in southern Vietnam, conducted by the World Mosquito Program and collaborators, seeks to release mosquitoes infected with the Wolbachia bacteria into the environment.
The bacteria, a natural pathogen to several insects, would compete with viruses like dengue, Zika, chikungunya and yellow fever found inside mosquitos, thus making it harder for viruses to replicate and for mosquitos to spread the viruses to humans.
Nguyen Vu Trung, head of Ho Chi Minh City Pasteur Institute, said for this project, the bacteria would be made to infect Aedes aegypti mosquito eggs.
The eggs would then be contained into capsules, with each containing about 400 eggs. These capsules would be put inside water containers in 2,800 locations across Thu Dau Mot, an hour drive from HCMC. The eggs would eventually hatch and infected mosquitos escape into the environment, Trung said.
These mosquitos would eventually mate with local mosquito populations, spreading the effect. Once every two weeks, the water containers would be replaced with new capsules. Capsules would continue to be introduced for around 20 weeks, and when there’s enough mosquitos infected with Wolbachia in the environment, the situation would be monitored for about a year so the project results could be evaluated.
Claudia Surjadjaja, regional director for the World Mosquito Program, said dengue fever is the fastest spreading tropical disease and may affect 40 percent of the world population. Using the Wolbachia bacteria for disease control is an effective method to reduce the number of dengue fever cases, she added.
This is the first time mosquitos infected with Wolbachia are released in southern Vietnam as a disease control method. More mosquitos are expected to be released in Tien Giang in the Mekong Delta on Friday too.
Previously, these mosquitos had already been released in Nha Trang in central Vietnam.
Vietnam records around 90,000 cases of dengue fever every year on average, with 70 percent in southern Vietnam, according to Trung.