Queensland research trials have shown promising results in the control of the spread of Dengue virus.

Field trials have shown that Queensland scientists are closer to eradicating Dengue than ever before using a bacteria that can limit the spread of the disease.

Researchers from James Cook University in Cairns have released mosquitoes bred with a bacteria called Wolbachia, shown to stop the transmission of the virus, at trial sites to breed with wild insects as a part of the Eliminate Dengue Program, which aims to seed wild mosquito populations where Dengue is endemic to reduce transmission to people.

Professor Scott Ritchie from the program says trial sites that began in 2011 now show close to 100 per cent of mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia.

“In the past two years we have released Wolbachia mosquitoes in a further five sites in Cairns and the good news is that we’re seeing no evidence of local Dengue transmission in all our release sites,” says Professor Ritchie. ““The mosquitoes we rear are released to breed with wild mosquitoes and then Wolbachia is passed to the offspring.

“We have shown that the Wolbachia bacteria stops the mosquito from being able to transmit the Dengue virus.”

Sciene Minister Ian Walker says the trial has proved successful thus far.

“In the most recent outbreaks in Cairns, there was no evidence of local Dengue transmission in areas where mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia bacteria were released to breed with wild mosquitoes,” says Walker. “We may not be able to claim it as a cure-all yet, but this research takes us a step closer to controlling this disease.”

Dengue virus is one of the most prevalent mosquito-borne viral diseases worldwide, with 2.5 billion people at risk of contracting the debilitating and sometimes deadly disease.

“Since the most recent Cairns outbreak in October last year, 125 people have been infected with Dengue, and that’s 125 Queenslanders too many,” says Walker.

The Wolbachia method seems to provide a low-cost, self-sustaining and environmentally sound way to control the spread of Dengue.

“This research will not just make a difference here in Queensland,” says Walker. “The results are informing Wolbachia trials in Indonesia and Vietnam, and there are plans for similar programs in Brazil, China and Colombia.”