Since the first releases of Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes in Queensland, Australia in 2011, the World Mosquito Program (WMP) has been working to implement its method to eliminate mosquito-borne diseases in places at risk all over the world.
A major arm of the operation is situated in the Americas – with active projects running in Mexico, Colombia and Brazil. While the global pandemic has temporarily delayed the opening of WMP’s third hub-office in Panama, projects in these three countries remain key pillars for the organisation’s ambitions to protect 100 million people globally within the next five years. “We remain committed to sustainable growth – plain and simple,” says WMP Regional Director Janina Khayali. “If we succeed with national roll out in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico alone, we will have achieved the Americas portion of this goal, but our eyes are always on the horizon to achieve far beyond that.” WMP began working in Brazil in 2012. In Rio de Janeiro and Niterói, Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes have been released in an area covering a population of around 1.3 million people. While data from the releases continues to be analyzed, plans are ramping up to roll out projects in Belo Horizonte and Campo Grande. In Colombia, releases have taken place in Bello and Medellin, protecting over 2.5 million people. The cities of Cali and other municipalities within the Valle de Cauca are next in line. While in Mexico, the project will re-establish city-wide releases across La Paz later this year with national roll-out in motion.
The program paused releases of mosquitoes in communities due to the pandemic in order to help keep staff and communities safe. With a growing body of evidence to support the success of the method, the focus for the program has shifted to the question of how to scale – how it can protect as many people as possible quickly, efficiently and cost effectively. The recent spread of the novel CoronaVirus together with alarming numbers of dengue cases have provided a grim reminder of the impossible task of controlling multiple outbreaks simultaneously.
Progress is positive in the three countries mentioned above, but there are plenty of other countries, cities and communities in which diseases spread by Aedes aegypti is a common and debilitating threat. Khayali names Peru, Paraguay, El Salvador and the Virgin Islands as places where discussions have begun. But as long as diseases like dengue, Mayaro Zika and chikungunya continue to surface, there will be keen interest in getting things rolling across the entire continent. “Our model is designed to build the capacity in communities so they can protect themselves from mosquito-borne disease. This requires building trust and developing strong relationships across the region. If we can achieve this, we’ll be one step closer to a world free from the devastating health and economic burdens these diseases continue to inflict.” The World Mosquito program is very interested in building strong partnership and building support for its work so more people can be protected.
If you are interested in learning more or supporting the World Mosquito Program’s work please contact Enrica Longo, Director External Relations.
Enrica works with the global team from Vietnam.