April 17, 2024
Wolbachia Program is Combating Dengue

How Niteroi’s Wolbachia Program is Combating Dengue Outbreaks More Effectively Than Rio

In response to the dengue fever outbreak in Rio de Janeiro last month, the city has been working tirelessly to address the public health crisis. With a surge in testing capacities and the establishment of dengue health centers, efforts have been intensified to cater to the increasing healthcare needs of the population. However, across the Guanabara Bay in Niteroi, a different story is unfolding.

Niteroi, home to approximately half a million residents, has reported a significantly lower number of dengue cases compared to Rio. With just 403 suspected cases of dengue so far this year and an incidence rate of 69 confirmed cases per 100,000 people, Niteroi stands out with one of the lowest dengue rates in the state. In contrast, Rio has recorded an incidence rate of 700 cases per 100,000 people, totaling over 42,000 cases.

A key factor contributing to Niteroi’s success in combating dengue is the implementation of a pilot program that began in 2015. The program involves breeding mosquitoes infected with the Wolbachia bacteria, which has been shown to disrupt the transmission of the dengue virus. This innovative strategy, developed by the World Mosquito Program, has proven to be effective in controlling dengue outbreaks.

Mayor Axel Grael of Niteroi initiated the Wolbachia program in response to a dengue epidemic in 2012 that resulted in numerous cases and fatalities. Collaborating with the Fiocruz Institute, the World Mosquito Program, and the Health Ministry, Niteroi has witnessed a significant decline in dengue cases since the implementation of the Wolbachia technique.

Dengue, a viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes, can cause symptoms like high fever, headaches, body aches, nausea, and rash. While most cases resolve within a week, severe forms of the disease may require hospitalization and can be fatal. Rio’s susceptibility to dengue outbreaks is exacerbated by frequent rains and high temperatures, creating optimal conditions for mosquito breeding.

Despite the relatively low incidence of dengue in Niteroi, proactive measures are taken to prevent outbreaks. City health workers conduct regular surveys to eliminate potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes, such as standing water. In a neighborhood like Morro da Penha, health workers like Augusto Cesar meticulously inspect homes and rooftops to prevent mosquito breeding.

Challenges in dengue prevention efforts include navigating informal settlements, like favelas, and ensuring security in areas controlled by criminal factions. Luciano Moreira, a researcher at Fiocruz leading the Wolbachia project in Brazil, highlights these challenges and emphasizes the importance of expanding the Wolbachia program to more municipalities.

With growing interest from other cities, the Brazilian Health Ministry plans to establish a factory to mass-produce Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes. This initiative aims to scale up mosquito breeding efforts and enhance dengue control measures nationwide. Niteroi’s success story serves as a testament to the effectiveness of innovative strategies in combating public health crises like dengue outbreaks.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it.