(by courtesy of Consulate General office of Sri Lanka in Melbourne)
On 20 July 2017, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced a new research partnership between the Eliminate Dengue Program (EDP) and the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health (MOH) to seek a long term solution to the dengue burden in Sri Lanka.
Dengue is a growing public health problem in Sri Lanka. According to the World Health Organization, more than 82,000 cases of dengue – including 250 deaths – have already been reported in Sri Lanka this year.
With support from the Australian Government’s innovationXchange, EDP plans to trial the introduction of its naturally occurring Wolbachia bacteria to Sri Lankan mosquito populations. Wolbachia prevents dengue from being transmitted between people. It also has the ability to block other mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika and chikungunya.
During the announcement in Colombo, Professor Scott O’Neill, EDP’s Program Director stressed the importance of this new partnership with the MOH. “Dengue outbreaks place a significant burden on communities and local health systems in Sri Lanka. The Eliminate Dengue Program’s Wolbachia method offers a sustainable long term solution with the potential to greatly reduce the burden of mosquito-borne diseases in Sri Lanka,” said Prof O’Neill.
Lead from Monash University in Australia, EDP has been conducting field trials using the Wolbachiamethod since 2011. Long term monitoring has shown that when a high proportion of mosquitoes in an area carry Wolbachia, local transmission of the disease has stopped. Sri Lanka is the seventh country to become part of the program, joining Brazil, Colombia, Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and India.