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The Wolbachia Project

Although the news first made headlines back in 2020, it is a question as to why no one has brought up the fact that countries are fighting outbreaks of dengue with genetically modified mosquitoes. This may not have been your ideal environmental daily dose of information but it gives you an insight into the technology that we are capable of in the modern world.

Wolbachia may have given you the essence of a werewolf, but it is instead a genus of bacteria that primarily infects arthropods, with the higher proportion being insects. In the wide regions of Earth’s surface and atmosphere, Wolbachia might possibly be the most common reproductive parasite, and due to its ubiquitous trait, it is naturally found in 60-70% of insects, just not the one responsible for dengue. The Yellow Fever mosquito, or the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

Here’s what we know as a result from the Singaporean laboratories:

  1. The Aedes aegypti mosquito is injected with the Wolbachia bacteria.

  2. The in-bred mosquitoes cannot spread diseases like dengue, not even malaria.

  3. These diseases are mainly spread by female mosquitoes.

  4. The project includes all male mosquitoes that are genetically modified.

  5. The bacteria-carrying mosquitoes mate with the female mosquitoes.

  6. They don’t fertilize the eggs, preventing them from hatching.

  7. The proliferation of the disease is reduced as the female mosquitoes die and can only survive up to 7 days.

Here’s how it can help a dengue patient (according to the Borneo Post Online):

  1. The Wolbachia mosquito bites the person infected with dengue (or other viruses).

  2. The mosquito is infected by the virus.

  3. The virus’s growth is inhabited in the mosquito.

  4. The infected mosquito bites another person without transmitting the virus.

Moreover, the future of the Wolbachia bacteria holds a lot of potential as it can contribute heavily to the advance of disease control by serving as a pandemic endosymbiont, which is an organism that forms a symbiotic relationship with another organism, and it can enable the removal of various human diseases. However, like all solutions, they have setbacks and despite the Wolbachia project being an innovative way to treat and deal with these disease-spreading insects, Singaporean experts stated that “an application might not be effective in a dense urban region like Singapore.” Statistically, the implementation has caused 90 percent declines in some areas but concerns lead back to the basic human instinct. If you were to release large batches of these mosquitoes until they become all over the place, people tend to get annoyed. After all, what is the probability that you, in your daily life, actually grab the mosquito and examine it for its gender and type, that is if you can even catch the mosquito. According to Singapore’s National University Hospital Senior Consultant Paul Tambey, he expressed that as a result of not checking if it’s male or female, the people would swipe them away and that kind of defeats the purpose.

It is refreshing to see how far technology has come even though one might think this is no use because it doesn’t help in aiding Covid 19 but it is a nice thing to know that while we are fighting mosquito with mosquito to fight sickness with cure, one of the world’s most hated insects have possibly became our friend.


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