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Biological Chemistry

India to study bacteria’s impact on mosquito-spread disease viruses

Research aimed at controlling spread of dengue and chikungunya

by K.V. Venkatasubramanian, special to C&EN
April 10, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 15

Credit: khlungcenter/Shutterstock
Aedes aegypti is a vector for dengue and chikungunya viruses.
Photo shows an <i>Aedes aegypti</i> mosquito with its proboscis inserted in human skin.
Credit: khlungcenter/Shutterstock
Aedes aegypti is a vector for dengue and chikungunya viruses.

India is preparing to begin laboratory trials on a vector-control method to combat mosquito-borne viruses using a type of bacteria that infects insects. The work is part of a collaborative international effort to stem the spread of disease.

An initial research phase will begin soon at Vector Control Research Centre in Puducherry, India, to study mosquitoes that are infected with Wolbachia bacteria.

Though Wolbachia occurs in many insects, it is not usually found in the Aedes aegypti mosquito, a primary transmitter of the dengue and chikungunya viruses. Studies published last year show that Wolbachia can stop these viruses from growing inside the mosquitoes, and thus the bacteria might be used to control the spread of disease (PLOS Pathog., DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1005434; PLOS Neglected Trop. Dis., DOI: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0004677).

In 2016, nearly 100,000 people across India tested positive for dengue, and more than 200 died of the disease, data from the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme show. According to the agency, India had more than 58,000 suspected cases of chikungunya in 2016.

Scientists at the research center, which functions under the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), will work with A. aegypti larvae imported from Monash University that are infected with Wolbachia.

ICMR entered into a partnership in February with Monash University’s Eliminate Dengue program. India was the sixth country to join the program, which is being implemented in Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, and Vietnam.


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