In the Battle Against Dengue, Singapore Fights Mosquitoes With More Mosquitoes
By mid-2019, the Philippines saw one of its worst dengue fever outbreaks in years. As it turns out, the mosquito-caused viral infection is affecting people all over the globe and the number of cases has been rising through the decades. The World Health Organization reports that half of the world’s population is at risk and there are approximately 390 million recorded cases a year. While Singapore is no exception, it’s acting upon a solution to lower the risk of disease. It’s called Project Wolbachia and what scientists are doing is infecting male aedes aegypti mosquitoes—or what we know as carriers of dengue—with Wolbachia bacteria. When these male mosquitoes mate with their female counterparts, their eggs won’t hatch. To top it off, this breed of male mosquito does not bite. This is by no means a new project and has been around for a couple of years, but is taking a turn for the better.
The promise of a new facility seeks to amplify this development by producing five million of these mosquitoes a week. The S$5 million-facility helmed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) is located in Ang Mo Kio. Everything here will be done quicker and more efficiently. The size of the new facility is thrice as big as its predecessor, while the automated pupae sorter is 10 to 20 times faster and displays an enhanced accuracy.
The NEA took further measures to address this health concern after the number of dengue cases in Singapore rose to 15,000 this year and yielded 20 deaths. Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources, Dr. Amy Khor, attributes this to climate change.
“Mosquitoes breed faster at higher temperatures and the dengue virus also replicates faster, allowing it to be transmitted more efficiently,” she says.