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Mosquitoes Vaccinated Against Their Ability to Carry Dengue [VIDEO]

Sep 16, 2013 08:14 PM EDT

An international team of researchers is attempting to eliminate dengue fever with a novel new approach -- by effectively vaccinating mosquitoes against their ability to carry the virus.

There are no effective drugs or vaccines for dengue, which has gone from being endemic to nine countries in the 1970s to being commonplace in more than 100 countries today.

Researchers from Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns and Brazil found a bacterium -- Wolbachia -- in fruit flies that may be able to stop mosquitoes from spreading dengue.

In field trials in Cairns the researchers, led by Professor Scott O'Neill from Monash University, showed that Wolbachia quickly spread through the mosquito population and that a year after the start of the trial 80 to 100 percent of the mosquitoes in the area couldn't spread dengue.

The field trial suggest that by actively spreading the bacterium to mosquito populations, the infected mosquitoes will not be able to spread the deadly disease.

"This work is a potential game-changer in the battle against dengue and other insect-borne diseases," the Director of the Australian Museum, Frank Howarth said.

"Professor O'Neill's team has found a way to stop the spread of a problem that affects millions of people and farm animals worldwide-and reduce our dependence on insecticides."

The research was awarded the Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre Eureka Prize for Infectious Diseases Research by the Australian Museum.

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