12 Apr Outsmarting Dengue Fever by Vaccinating Mosquitoes
Scientific American Magazine, April 2011
Just after sunrise in early January, a delivery van trundled along a suburban street in Queensland, Australia. Inside were tubs filled with a type of mosquito that carries dengue fever, the flulike illness that annually sickens 50 million to 100 million people worldwide. Workers inside the van stopped at every fourth house, took out what resembled a small Chinese food container and released 40 mosquitoes into the wild. After a week, they had filled the air with 6,000 insects. By early March they had launched 72,000.
What may sound like bioterrorism is, in fact, a novel form of biological insect control. Scott O’Neill of the University of Queensland and his colleagues are testing a new method of reducing the spread of dengue, which is a growing scourge in the tropics and has recently shown up in the U.S. Although the disease is usually not fatal, dengue can land patients in the hospital, and it has no cure or vaccine.