Mozzie population cut by 70% in Tampines West study site: Masagos Zulkifli

When a male Wolbachia-Aedes mosquito mates with a female Aedes mosquito, the eggs produced will not hatch, limiting the number of mosquito larvae each female Aedes mosquito can produce.
When a male Wolbachia-Aedes mosquito mates with a female Aedes mosquito, the eggs produced will not hatch, limiting the number of mosquito larvae each female Aedes mosquito can produce.PHOTO: ST FILE

The mosquito population in a Tampines West study site has been reduced by 70 per cent, after the release of sterile males which produce eggs that cannot hatch.

These are the latest results from Project Wolbachia, a scheme labelled after the male mosquitoes infected with the bacteria of the same name. The encouraging results were revealed by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli on Facebook on Thursday.

"We have been exploring innovative solutions to suppress the Aedes aegypti mosquito population, to prevent the spread of dengue and Zika," he added.

In January, the National Environment Agency announced that the mosquito population was halved in the Tampines West study site. This month's update marks a further 20 per cent decrease in the Aedes mosquito population at the Tampines West cluster.

And the news that the Project Wolbachia solution is working comes just before the start of phase three, where the release of sterile male mosquitoes will be expanded to wider areas in Nee Soon East and Tampines West.

In this phase, mosquitoes will be released weekly at 84 blocks in Nee Soon East and 60 blocks in Tampines West.

The Wolbachia-Aedes mosquito is produced by introducing the Wolbachia strain to Aedes mosquito eggs. The Aedes mosquito is most commonly known for causing dengue fever and spreading the Zika virus locally.

  • 84

    Number of blocks in Nee Soon East where sterile male mosquitoes will be released weekly during phase three of Project Wolbachia. 

    60

    Number of blocks in Tampines West where sterile male mosquitoes will be released weekly during phase three of Project Wolbachia.

When a male Wolbachia-Aedes mosquito mates with a female Aedes mosquito, the eggs produced will not hatch, limiting the number of mosquito larvae each female Aedes mosquito can produce.

In phase three, several novel devices will be used in the field study, said Mr Masagos.

"These devices have been developed with local and international companies to support and improve the efficiency of the project," he said.

These include the automated cart developed by Verily - a Google affiliate - to dispense male Wolbachia mosquitoes at the Tampines West study site, he added.

 

The Verily release cart automatically releases the male Wolbachia mosquitoes in controlled and even doses, away from residential units.

It has also improved operational efficiency, Mr Masagos said, by reducing the number of people releasing the mosquitoes at the Tampines West site from 10 to two.

"We hope that such innovative technologies will not only benefit public health, but advance research and economic opportunities as well," he said.

Correction note: This article has been edited for accuracy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2019, with the headline 'Mozzie population cut by 70% in Tampines West study site: Masagos'. Print Edition | Subscribe