A landmark trial conducted in north Queensland has revealed breakthrough research which could support the suppression and potential eradication of the disease carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito.
The research was recently published in the scientific journal PNAS, and demonstrated how a bacteria could successfully sterilise and eradicate the invasive, disease carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito.
Found on every continent except Antarctica, the Aedes aegypti is one of the world's most dangerous pests and is responsible for the spread of multiple human diseases such as Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever and Zika.
The trial, which began in the summer of 2018, aimed to reduce population size by sterilising male mosquitos and introducing them into the wild female population.
Researchers released three million male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes over a 20-week period across three trial sites along the Cassowary Coast in Northern Queensland, sterilised with a bacteria called Wolbachia.
The trial had been an international collaboration between Australia's national science agency CSIRO, University of Queenslan, Verily Life Sciences, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute and James Cook University.
One year into the program, scientists had found that one of the trial sites, Mourilyan in Queensland, was almost completely devoid of mosquitoes.
JCU Adjunct professor Scott Ritchie said the Wolbachia trial was a successful international collaboration which saw contemporary science working together with cutting-edge technology, to help eliminate the dengue-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito.
"It was a hugely successful project. We reared the three million male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes needed for the trial in the insectary at James Cook University in Cairns," Mr Ritchie said.
Verily Product Manager, Nigel Snoad, said community engagement was also essential to success of the project.
"It was a huge achievement by the joint team to setup and operate the mosquito rearing, sorting and release systems, and develop strong community engagement and support," Mr Snoad said.
"We were proud of the work we were able to do in collaboration with the CSIRO, James Cook University and the local community. The ongoing suppression after releases stopped is an important result, indicating that sustained impact is feasible for this disease vector."
UQ Associate Professor, Nigel Beebe, said the trial demonstrated just how robust and capable the technique was in effectively suppressing mosquito populations.
"During the trial, we saw over 80 per cent of the mosquito population suppressed across our three trial sites," Mr Beebe said.
"When we surveyed the sites the following year, we were very encouraged to see the suppression still in effect, with one of our most productive towns for Aedes aegypti almost devoid of this mosquito with a 97 per cent reduction across the following season.
"One year on, the mosquito population at the second trial site remained substantially suppressed, while the population fully recovered at the third site."
CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall said the organisation was proud to build on a 100-year legacy of protecting Australians.
"Over 40 per cent of humans suffer from mosquito-spread diseases, so it's an opportunity for Australia to develop environmentally-friendly mosquito control tools to tackle current and future mosquito incursions, Mr Marshall said.
"By working with Australian and international partners we can tackle two of Australia's greatest challenges at once - health and security - with breakthrough research translated into effective global export solutions.
"CSIRO is leveraging great Australian science to create new technologies to make this approach more cost effective and suitable for the climates of less developed countries that suffer most from mosquito-borne viruses, strengthening and protecting our region."
Techniques from the trial are being used to support CSIRO-led mosquito suppression programs in French Polynesia and the Hunter region in New South Wales.
This experiment was the first time a non-radiation based Incompatable Insect Technique approach had been successfully applied to Aedes aegypti, showing a continued suppression effect into the following season, which demonstrated Australian scientists as world leaders in mosquito research control.
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