Washington: Scientists claim to have stopped mosquitoes from spreading dengue virus by infecting them with bacteria from flies that commonly live in kitchen fruit bowls.
An international team has shown how the fruitfly bacteria was established in wild mosquito populations, thus offering a practical and inexpensive way to stop transmission of dengue fever which affects 50 million people worldwide annually.
"It is amazing that Aussie fruit bacteria can effectively immunise mosquitoes against dengue, thereby preventing its spread to humans.
"Our finding has the potential to halt the spread of the dengue virus which is vital as there is currently no vaccine and the geographical areas of infection are growing," Prof Ary Hoffmann at University of Melbourne, who led the team, said.
The World Health Organisation ranks dengue fever as the most important mosquito borne viral disease in the world, with an 2.5 billion people living in dengue infected areas.
The team claims to be the first to introduce the particular wMel Wolbachia strain into disease-carrying mosquitoes, and to establish it in natural populations during field trials in Queensland, Australia.
"Wolbachia rapidly infects the wild mosquito population because it is inherited directly from the mother through the egg," Prof Hoffmann said.
He added: "Current control methods, mainly based on insecticides are failing to stop the global dengue problem and some mosquitoes are developing resistance. The benefit of the Wolbachia control method is that it is a cheaper biological control that communities could employ themselves, without using insecticides."
The findings have been published in the latest edition of the `Nature` journal.