Wolbachia Aedes Mosquitos to be Released in a Pilot Project

In the effort to reduce Dengue cases in the state, the strain is said to weaken the virus carried by the Aedes mosquitos

Ling Tian Soon, Chairman of the state Health and Unity Committee during the release of the Wolbachia mosquitos at People's Housing Project (PPR) in Kempas - image credits to Ah Soon’s Facebook page

In an effort by the state government to reduce the number of Dengue cases in Johor, more than three million eggs of Aedes mosquitoes bearing the Wolbachia strain will be released in a pilot project to combat Aedes mosquitoes in the People’s Housing Project (PPR) in Kempas.

The pilot project, which will last for more than two years, will be overseen by the Johor Health Department and the Johor Bahru City Council (MBJB), according to state Health and Unity Committee chairman Ling Tian Soon.

He claims that by releasing these Aedes mosquito eggs; male and female Aedes Wolbachia mosquitoes will mate with Aedes wild mosquito species, leading to an increase in the population of Aedes Wolbachia resulting in a reduction in Dengue virus transmission.

It has been discovered that viruses including Dengue, Zika, Chikungunya, and yellow fever have a tougher time reproducing inside Aedes mosquitos infected with the Wolbachia bacteria.

Mosquitoes are also less likely to transmit illnesses from one person to the next.

“This project was proven successful when it had been implemented in Penang and Selangor, seeing a 40% decrease in Dengue cases in these states.

“The Kempas PPR was chosen because it is a Dengue hotspot in Johor Bahru, apart from other areas in the city that have also reported a high number of cases,” he told reporters after the launching ceremony of the project at the Kempas PPR.

He noted that now, for every 14 series of Aedes mosquito eggs released, 222,500 eggs are used, at a cost of 45 sen each egg.

“We will do a study first, (after that) we will propose this Aedes Wolbachia mosquito project to be implemented in other Dengue hotspot areas,” said Ling.

Datuk Dr Aman Rabu, the director of the Johor Health Department, was also present at the event.

The total number of Dengue cases decreased by 41.2% from 1st January to 14th May this year, to 566 cases, compared to 963 cases in the same period last year.

However, 57 Dengue cases were reported in the 19th epidemiological week (ME19) of this year, compared to 31 occurrences in the previous week (ME18), with Johor Bahru district having the greatest number of cases with 22.