Words: Julian CribbA tiny microbe employed as a living ‘guided missile’ has raised hopes for halting in its tracks one of the world’s most debilitating pandemics – the dengue virus.Over the past two years an international scientific team led by Monash University’s Professor Scott O’Neill has achieved a series of remarkable breakthroughs in the war on the dengue virus, a mosquito borne scourge that infects 50 to 100 million people a year and threatens the health of 2.5 billion citizens of the tropics. The microbial ‘missile’ is a bacterium that, in effect, intercepts the virus between its transmission from mosquito to human. Researchers say the breakthrough may have opened up a fresh avenue for the control of other insect-borne diseases including malaria, which claims around two million lives a year. Without an effective control, the impact of these diseases is likely to only get worse as many parts of the world get warmer and wetter. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already warned that the emergence of giant tropical megacities with huge populations, combined with inadequate sanitation and water management have provided the perfect breeding ground and opportunity for bloodthirsty female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to spread their deadly cargo of viruses and parasites at ever-increasing rates.
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