Mosquito Trials

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Science  11 Nov 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6057, pp. 771-772
DOI: 10.1126/science.1213798

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After two decades of research at the bench, strategies based on biologic or genetic modification of mosquitoes to control vector-borne diseases are now advancing to field testing. Such strategies seek either to reduce the overall number of target mosquitoes to levels unable to support pathogen transmission (population suppression) or to introduce into the local mosquito population a genetic modification that renders them unable to transmit the pathogen (population replacement). Dengue represents a good target for such interventions. The disease is caused by a flavivirus transmitted primarily by the mosquito Aedes aegypti (see the figure) and is a major problem in tropical and subtropical regions. Conventional methods (insecticide fogging, larvaciding, manual elimination of breeding sites) are difficult to sustain at effective levels and largely have failed to control dengue. Small experimental trials of genetically engineered (1) or Wolbachia-infected (2) Ae. aegypti are showing promising results in meeting their respective entomological goals of population suppression and population replacement (infection with Wolbachia bacteria inhibits growth of dengue virus in the mosquitoes). What indications of success are required for these technologies to be accepted as public health tools? A recent meeting to consider this question brought together vector biologists, epidemiologists, infectious disease and clinical trial experts, and others interested in dengue control (3).