The results of a three-year study inspire hope against millions of diseases worldwide, which infect millions each year.
Dengue fever has dropped dramatically in Indonesia, where bacteria have been introduced into disease-carrying mosquitoes in hopes of fighting millions of diseases around the world.
A three-year study published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week found that infection of dengue-borne mosquitoes with harmless bacteria called Volbachia resulted in a 77 percent reduction in human cases.
Researchers say the number of infections requiring hospitalization has also dropped by 86 percent in the town of Yogyakarta, one of the islands of the island of Ava, which is being treated by Volbachia.
The study was conducted by the World Mosquito Program at Monash University in Australia and Gaja Mada University in Indonesia.
“Honestly, 77 percent is pretty fantastic for a communicable disease. We are very grateful for the result,” said Adi Utarin, a public health researcher at Gadja Mada University who was a leading proponent of the study.
The trial included releasing Volbachia into a mosquito population in certain parts of the Yogyakarta to measure how it affects infections in children aged three to 45 years.
It has now expanded to other parts of the city.
Wolbachia suppresses the ability of the Aedes aegypti mosquito to reproduce the virus, causing infections when they bite humans.
Previous experiments with Walbachia, commonly found in fruit flies and other insects, have also shown positive results in reducing dengue cases, the researchers said.
Scientists hope that this method can change the game in the global fight against the disease, which can sometimes be fatal.
Symptoms usually include body aches, fever, and nausea.
“This is the result we’ve been waiting for,” said Scott O’Neill, director of the World Mosquito Program.
“We have evidence that our Volbachia method is safe, stable, and dramatically reduces dengue.
“It gives us great confidence in the positive impact this method will have on the world when it is provided to communities at risk of mosquito-borne diseases,” he added.
Dengue is the fastest spreading mosquito in the world, with more than 50 million cases worldwide each year, including about eight million in Indonesia.
Studies have shown that the Wolbachia method can be effective in preventing the transmission of Zika, chikungunya, yellow fever and other diseases transmitted by mosquitoes.