Professor Adi Utarini, the lead researcher at the World Mosquito Program (WMP) Yogyakarta, emphasized that the research on Wolbachia-infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes has received recognition and support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Indonesian Academy of Sciences (AIPI).
Professor Utarini reiterated this during Saturday’s Talk to Scientists session on the Development of Dengue Vector Control in Indonesia (November 25).
Professor Utarini explained that the WHO Vector Control Advisory Group (VCAG) has concluded that there is evidence of the spread of Wolbachia in the Aedes aegypti mosquito population, demonstrating public health impacts on dengue.
VCAG also considers that there is sufficient data for the WHO to initiate the development of guidelines for Wolbachia release recommendations for dengue control.
For the first time, VCAG provided a positive assessment of the public health impact of a new vector control intervention (reducing pathogen transmission due to Wolbachia intervention).
Furthermore, the efficacy evidence in Yogyakarta is consistent with studies in Brazil, Vietnam, and Australia, and has received the 2020 WHO VCAG recommendation that Aedes aegypti mosquitoes with Wolbachia technology have proven beneficial for public health in combating dengue.
An independent team from the Ministry of Research, Technology, and Higher Education has also conducted a risk analysis of the technology and stated that the Wolbachia technology is in the lowest risk category, which is negligible.
The Indonesian Academy of Sciences (AIPI) recommends that dengue prevention innovation with Wolbachia technology become a Ministry of Health policy for the public to use in handling dengue in Indonesia.
Professor Utarini stated that the risks of Wolbachia intervention for dengue control can be ignored.
“We have tried our best to achieve the gold standard in medical and health research and produced the best scientific evidence. Recommendations from WHO and AIPI evidence this,” said the lead researcher.
“The implementation of Wolbachia intervention as a complement to dengue control programs requires strong leadership from central and local governments, strong support from stakeholders, and community acceptance.”
During the forum, Professor Utarini presented the program in Yogyakarta. She explained that female mosquitoes with Wolbachia play a crucial role because these mosquitoes will produce all their eggs with Wolbachia.
If only male mosquitoes are released, the eggs will not hatch. The strategy for implementing Wolbachia technology in Yogyakarta is by placing mosquito eggs and food in a small bucket filled with water, then closing and entrusting them to foster parents.
Every two weeks, the bucket is taken to be cleaned and refilled with new eggs, then placed in a shaded area. This strategy is not implemented in every house; one bucket is placed in each 75-100 m² radius.
After 6-7 months of monitoring, approximately 60% of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the areas had Wolbachia, so the release of mosquito eggs was stopped. Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes will continue to exist as they reproduce in their natural population.
Implementing the Wolbachia technology research in Yogyakarta involves several phases: safety and feasibility, small-scale releases, large-scale releases, and implementation models.
Each release of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes with Wolbachia has two requirements: strong stakeholder support and high community acceptance.