With half of the world’s population at risk of malaria infection, and dengue and chikungunya viruses spreading across the globe, the human burden of mosquito borne disease is enormous.
Dr Nigel Beebe
, from The University of Queensland’s School of Biological Sciences and CSIRO’s Biosecurity Flagship
is leading a national and international consortium of scientists to develop new methods to reduce disease transmission by mosquitoes.
With no vaccines available to combat these diseases, the only effective means of halting transmission is to prevent infected mosquitoes from biting humans.
With a $1,074,645 grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Dr Beebe plans to expand on proof of concept methodology to control mosquito borne diseases.
The novel technology can produce sterile males without genetic modification and should work for mosquitoes taken directly from the field.
“Male insects are sterilised and released into the wild population to seek and mate with females,” he said.
“Female mosquitoes mate only once and any eggs from a sterilised male partner will be dead.
“The males don’t bite and they take breeding females out of action, effectively reducing the population of mosquitoes which may bite humans and transfer pathogens causing disease.”
His international group have shown that dengue mosquito Aedes aegypti can be exposed to double-stranded RNA during larval development which shuts down sperm production in the adult male while maintaining fitness and prevents female larvae developing into adults.
The NHMRC grant will assist Dr Beebe and his colleagues to further develop this technology for the dengue and chikungunya vectors Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, and a Pacific malaria vector Anopheles farauti.
The research will include quantifying the mating efficiency and population suppression effect in small and large cage experiments.
The project will provide a unique opportunity to field-test this paradigm shift to mosquito control in a first-world country.