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Table of Contents
PERSPECTIVE
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 9  |  Page : 383-384

Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes: The answer to the dengue endemic in Pakistan?


1 Department of Internal Medicine, Dow University of Health Sciences, Karachi, Pakistan
2 Department of Internal Medicine, Ziauddin University, Karachi, Pakistan

Date of Submission26-Jul-2021
Date of Decision12-Aug-2021
Date of Acceptance20-Aug-2021
Date of Web Publication28-Sep-2021

Correspondence Address:
Qazi Syed Muhammad Ali
Department of Internal Medicine, Dow University of Health Sciences, Karachi
Pakistan
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/1995-7645.326259

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How to cite this article:
Ali QS, Husain MA. Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes: The answer to the dengue endemic in Pakistan?. Asian Pac J Trop Med 2021;14:383-4

How to cite this URL:
Ali QS, Husain MA. Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes: The answer to the dengue endemic in Pakistan?. Asian Pac J Trop Med [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Nov 29];14:383-4. Available from: https://www.apjtm.org/text.asp?2021/14/9/383/326259

Dengue is an infectious disease of viral etiology characterized by acute flu-like symptoms with potentially lethal complications. The virus is transmitted by the mosquitoes of the Aedes genus[1]. These mosquitoes dwell around small bodies of stagnant water, road puddles and open sewers. Pakistan has been dengue endemic for the last 30 years with 28 571 cases reported between 2019-2020 [Figure 1]. Similarly, in 2021, 1 449 confirmed dengue cases[2] have already appeared, much more than expected ahead of the upcoming peak season, set to occur during the post-monsoon months. This shows us that eradication of dengue from the region is extremely important. Methods currently employed to control dengue outbreaks in Pakistan are usually limited to those at a community level and include improving sanitation, spraying insecticides, using mosquito nets and repellants[3]. Vaccines against dengue virus have been developed in some parts of the world, but are not yet available for people living in Pakistan and therefore, new and innovative control strategies to overcome this disease and its spread are direly needed.
Figure 1: Reported dengue cases in Pakistan between 2017 and 2021 (till 29 May).

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Deployment of virus-blocking Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes is a promising dengue control strategy. The applying Wolbachia to Eliminate Dengue (AWED) trial conducted in Yogyakarta, Indonesia[4] is a recent study done to measure the efficacy of this method. This cluster randomized clinical trial involved the division of the study area into 24 clusters. Wolbachia-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquitoes were deployed in 12 randomly selected intervention clusters alongside regular routine dengue control measures, while the remaining 12 control clusters only received routine dengue control measures. The results of this trial showed a 77% decrease in the incidence of symptomatic virologically confirmed dengue (VCD) in the treated areas of the city while the protective efficacy in preventing hospitalization with VCD, an indicator of clinical severity, was 86%.

Along with the high protective efficacy, there are many other prospects to the vector control strategy of this Wolbachia method that make it very lucrative to implement in Pakistan. First and foremost is its affordability, since unlike all other proposed methods, the Wolbachia method is self-sustaining and Brady et al. predicted this method to be cost-saving over a period of ten years with favorable benefit-cost ratios of 1.35-3.40[5]. Given that the unsatisfactory performance of the economy has always been the biggest hurdle in the fight against dengue, this helps place the Wolbachia method above other more costly similar-scale alternatives such as genetically modified organism (GMO), insecticide spraying, sterile insect technique, etc. Moreover, unlike other alternatives, the Wolbachia method does not have any harmful effects on human health, nor does it affect the vector population numbers, and hence, should not affect the food chain in the long-term. Currently, 10 countries around the globe have employed the Wolbachia method to combat mosquito-borne diseases in association with the World Mosquito Program and all show promising results[6]. We believe that health authorities in Pakistan should change their focus from community-driven interventions and instead prioritize nationwide vector control measures to control the dengue endemic in the country and reduce the burden on our already weak healthcare system.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Authors’ contributions

Q.S.M.A. developed the concept and designed the manuscript; M.A.H provided key information and helped revise the manuscript.

 
  References Top

1.
Simmons CP, Farrar JJ, Nguyen vV, Wills B. Dengue. N Engl J Med 2012; 366(15): 1423-1432.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Federal Disease Surveillance and Response Unit Field Epidemiology & Disease Surveillance Division. National Institute of Health (NIH) Islamabad weekly field epidemiology report; c2021. [Online]. Available from: https://www.nih.org.pk/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/22-FELTP-Pakistan-Weekly-Epidemiological-Report-May-23-29-2021-.pdf. [Accessed on 21 July 2021].  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Tahir U, Khan UH, Zubair MS, Bahar-E-Mustafa. Wolbachia pipientis: A potential candidate for combating and eradicating dengue epidemics in Pakistan. Asian Pac J Trop Med 2015; 8(12): 989-998.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Utarini A, Indriani C, Ahmad RA, Tantowijoyo W, Arguni E, Ansari MR, et al. Efficacy of Wolbachia-infected mosquito deployments for the control of dengue. N Engl J Med 2021; 384(23): 2177-2186.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Brady OJ, Kharisma DD, Wilastonegoro NN, O’Reilly KM, Hendrickx E, Bastos LS, et al. The cost-effectiveness of controlling dengue in Indonesia using wMel Wolbachia released at scale: A modelling study. BMC Med 2020; 18(1): 186.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.
World Mosquito Program. Global progress; c2021. [Online]. Available from: https://www.worldmosquitoprogram.org/en/global-progress. [Accessed on 11 September 2021].  Back to cited text no. 6
    


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