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Tropical disease: strange weapon against dengue fever
Dengue viruses threaten billions of people in over 100 countries worldwide. So far there is no vaccination protection against the potentially fatal dengue fever. Therefore, researchers are now using a strange weapon. You want to fight the tropical disease with the help of bacteria.
So far there is no vaccination against dengue fever According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 2.5 billion people worldwide are threatened by dengue viruses. It is estimated that around 390 million people would be infected with the pathogen every year. So far there is no vaccination protection against the potentially fatal tropical disease. Neither is causal therapy. Researchers now want to fight dengue fever with the help of bacteria. To this end, mosquito populations are to be specifically infected with Wolbachia microbes. Tests for this would already be running on different continents.
Green technology a little different Most people probably think of green technology differently. Very few would think of targeted infection of entire insect populations with bacteria. But this is exactly what is currently being tried in Asia, Australia and America. In the future, only yellow fever mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti) that carry the Wolbachia bacterium in their bodies should be active in many places. These mosquitoes usually transmit a number of diseases, from yellow fever to chikungunya to dengue fever. For largely unexplained reasons, Wolbachia bacteria can drastically reduce the spread of many pathogens in insects. In addition, the microbes that only colonize invertebrates have a reproductive trick with which they can take over entire host populations. Therefore, there is hope that this combination could curb the spread of dengue viruses naturally, without chemicals.
40 percent of the earth's inhabitants live in high-risk areas Numerous scientists have been fighting dengue fever for years. The disease, which causes flu-like symptoms such as fever, joint and limb pain and which can sometimes be fatal, is spreading rapidly around the world. According to studies, around 40 percent of the world's inhabitants live in a risk area. The virus does not stop at the United States or Europe. For example, some transmissions were reported in Croatia and southern France in 2010 and in autumn 2012 there was a major outbreak on the Portuguese island of Madeira. The host country of the upcoming World Cup, Brazil, is also a risk area. Half a million international fans are expected to attend the tournament from the beginning of June, including tens of thousands from Germany.
Insecticides are unsuccessful and damage the environment One measure that is used in numerous countries is the spraying of insecticides against the mosquitoes. But the longed-for success is still missing. This method also damages the environment. That is why many experts in the search for new approaches are now raising hopes for the bacterial species Wolbachia pipientis that lives in the cells of their hosts. The microorganisms discovered as early as the 1920s colonize a wide variety of invertebrates worldwide, such as roundworms and spiders, but above all insects. Experts estimate that up to two thirds of all insect species carry the bacteria in their bodies, even if not all populations of these different species are infected.
Plans criticized in Brazil A few years ago, plans to contain dengue fever caused a sensation in Brazil. There, genetically modified mosquitoes were supposed to contain the population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Thus, by unchanging female mosquitoes mating with the genetically modified specimens, the common offspring should die at the larval stage. Since no one knows what consequences the ecosystem may face if the mosquito Aedes aegypti is eradicated, critics were concerned early on about the ecological consequences. For example, the mosquito is the food source of many birds and other animals. The spread of dengue fever may even be promoted if the mosquitoes develop resistance so that the offspring of the genetically modified animals survive. (ad)
Image: Sebastian Karkus / pixelio.de