- Wolbachiaare naturally occurring bacteria found in 60% of all insect species.
- It is also the most common reproductive parasite in the biosphere.
- However, it is not found in the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
- The World Mosquito Program has also shown that when introduced into the Aedes aegyptimosquito, Wolbachia can help to reduce the transmission of viruses to people
- Wolbachiais safe for humans, animals and the environment.
How does Wolbachia work?
- Wolbachia boosts the natural immune system of the mosquito making it harder for the mosquito to support the Zika, dengue or chikungunya infection.
- Wolbachiaalso works by competing against viruses for key molecules like cholesterol.
- Both the viruses and Wolbachianeed cholesterol to survive inside the mosquito. When Wolbachia is present, it consumes these molecules and makes it harder for the viruses to grow.
- Under the method, the researchers released male and female Aedes aegyptimosquitoes with Wolbachia over a number of weeks.
- These mosquitoes then breed with the wild mosquito population.
- Over time, the percentage of mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia grows until it remains high without the need for further releases.
How Wolbachia increases in insect populations
Impact on India
- Being a tropical country, India is prone to disease carrying mosquitoes.
- In 2017, there were 1.9 lakh dengue cases and 325 deaths in India.
- Until July 2018, there have been 15,000 cases and 38 deaths.
- Under the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, this approach is being tested in India.
- However, field testing is still years away as this approach needs to be tested in large cities.
- Further, large-scale trials in Brazil, Colombia and Indonesia have shown that wolbachia is self-sustaining at high levels and there has not been local dengue transmission.
- Thus, expediting the implementation of this new bio-control approach can considerably reduce the virus-carrying mosquitoes in India.
Section : Science & Tech