Zika answer may be flying around north Qld

The answer to the Zika outbreak could be flying around north Queensland.


That’s according to Eliminate Dengue Professor Scott O’Neill who thinks the Wolbachia bacteria, which stops mosquitoes transmitting dengue, could also work on Zika.

Eliminate Dengue first started releasing mosquitoes injected with Wolbachia in Cairns five years ago and says it now has unpublished information about reductions in Zika transmission.

“The biology of Zika’s transmission is almost identical to dengue’s so it makes sense,” he told AAP on Wednesday.

Wolbachia field trials have been rolled out in five countries, including Brazil where Zika has been linked to thousands of birth defects.

Prof O’Neill says the program has the potential to make a large impact on global dengue, and possibly Zika, transmissions.

“The suburbs where we have put out the Wolbachia mosquitoes, we haven’t seen any dengue transmissions,” he said.

“The impacts we see for dengue in the field should be similar to Zika.”

Dengue and Zika are both transferred by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which lives in subtropical and tropical areas around the world.

Wolbachia spreads through mosquito populations during breeding and also affects the transmission of chikungunya, yellow fever and the parasites that cause malaria.

It occurs naturally in 60 per cent of insects, but not in the Aedes Aegypti.

Mr O’Neill said Eliminate Dengue was in preliminary talks about rolling out new trials in South America.

There have been 20 cases of the Zika virus in Australia, with all patients having been infected overseas.

Authorities say the risk of an outbreak in Australia is low.

But north Queensland MPs have sought assurances from the federal government that appropriate measures will be put in place.

Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick said because north Queensland was used to dengue fever, the region would be able to prepare adequately for Zika.

He urged residents in the state’s north to help prevent a potential outbreak by getting rid of still water, applying insect repellent and wearing long-sleeved shirts.

A state prevention response is due to be discussed at a roundtable discussion on Thursday.