Wolbachia Project a Success
The World Mosquito Program’s project on Wolbachia carrying mosquitoes is on track to reducing local dengue outbreaks.
With community support, the WMP has been releasing Wolbachia carrying mosquitoes since July 2018 in an effort to help protect Lami, Suva and Nakasi residents from dengue and other mosquitoborne diseases such as chikungunya and Zika.
Monitoring shows Wolbachia (safe and natural bacteria that blocks virus transmission) is now present in the local Aedes aegypti mosquito population and the percentage of mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia is continuing to climb, as expected.
The WMP’s Project Coordinator in Fiji, Aminiasi Tavui, said it would take time to see Wolbachia at high levels, but they had reached an important milestone.
“We have completed releases in Lami, Tamavua/Wailoku, Cunnigham/Tacirua, Kalabu/Naveiwakau and Kinoya because we believe the Wolbachia level is high enough to sustain itself and to continue to increase naturally.
“Releases will continue across the rest of our project sites over the coming weeks and we will keep monitoring progress, however, overall, we are feeling extremely positive,” Mr Tavui said.
Over time, it is expected that the majority of local Aedes aegypti mosquitoes will carry Wolbachia, signifcantly reducing the risk of dengue, chikungunya or Zika outbreaks.
It’s the first time the WMP’s Wolbachia method has been used in Fiji, made possible through funding from the Australian Government’s innovationXchange and implementation support from the Fijian Ministry of Health and Medical Services and Live and Learn Environmental Education.
Mr Tavui said the project would contribute immensely to improving public health in the country, with government, partner and community support pivotal to making it happen.
Communities across Lami, Suva and Nakasi have embraced the Wolbachia method in a number of ways, including support from WMP Ambassador, Rugby Olympian Jasa Veremalua, and the
participation of more than 1,000 school children in the WMP’s Wolbachia Warriors Program.
In addition, the Rotary Club of Suva has been assisting the project by mobilising locals to grow and release Wolbachia carrying mosquitoes around their homes.
“We are so thankful to the thousands of locals who have and continue to support our pilot project,” Mr Tavui said.