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Depression and Heart Disease

Reversing The World’s Fastest Spreading Disease


For half of the planet, mosquitoes are more
than just a nuisance. Their bites transmit parasites and viruses
that kill millions of people each year. One of them, dengue virus,
causes dengue fever. It’s often called breakbone fever because the patients feel like the bones
in their bodies are being broken. If you get sick with dengue, you can have
mild symptoms through to very extreme symptoms, where you’re going to have internal bleeding, shock and can die. So it’s a big spectrum but if you speak to anybody that’s had
a bad dose of dengue, they’ll tell you it’s one of the worst things
that happened to them in their life. Dengue is considered the world’s fastest
spreading tropical disease. Its cases have risen thirtyfold in the last 50 years. Dengue is like everywhere in the tropics. Potentially 40% of the world’s population
is at risk this year of getting dengue. That’s a big number. We’re talking about billions of people. And with the world’s temperatures rising, dengue can spread out of the tropics potentially
reaching a further two billion people by 2080. In Indonesia the total number of dengue cases
is second in the world. It has been proven very difficult to sort of get rid of all the mosquitoes causing dengue. In the laboratories chemicals are discovered
for killing mosquitoes. We’ve tried very hard but still,
the mosquitoes are around us. So it needs something else to combat dengue. Eight years ago Scott O’Neill founded The
World Mosquito Program, a non-profit initiative running trials in
12 countries around the world, one of them here in Indonesia. Their sole aim is to eradicate dengue. In particular one mosquito, Aedes aegypti, it is responsible for transmitting between
people a number of diseases. Some of them obscure, some of them quite famous. So diseases like yellow fever, dengue, chikungunya,
and most recently, Zika. And the reason that this particular mosquito,
Aedes aegypti, is so good at being able to cause these explosive epidemics is because it’s like the cockroach of the
mosquito world. Just like cockroaches,
it likes to live with people. It doesn’t live out in the forest in harmony
with nature or whatever, it lives in people’s houses, in concrete jungles, in cities, and it bites people, maybe two or three times a day. And so often whole families get sick with dengue, because that one mosquito bit everybody in
that house within a period of a couple of days. As soon as people discovered
that mosquitoes transmit disease, the immediate response is let’s kill mosquitoes. The thing is all those diseases are still
pretty well here. And the reason is that
mosquitoes are really tough to kill and if you realize where they breed,
you know just in a tiny bit of water, you realize that there are millions and millions
of places where these mosquitoes are breeding and a thought of killing
every single one of them just seems impossible. Most researchers have focused on genetically
modifying mosquitoes, or trying to eradicate the species entirely. Instead, O’Neill’s team is infecting mosquitoes
with bacteria – not to kill them, but to inoculate them. It’s a naturally occurring bacterium called Wolbachia. That bacterium spreads into the mosquito population, and once the mosquitoes have it, they’re
unable to transmit the virus between people. You know, I’ve had this obsession for a long time
of working on Wolbachia. It occurs naturally in around 60 to 70% of
all insect species all around the world so wherever you live, if you were to go outside,
grab some insects out of the nearest bush you’d likely find, more often than not,
that those insects naturally have this bacteria called Wolbachia. The mosquito though, that transmits all these
viruses to people, doesn’t have it. When we were able to put the Wolbachia
into the mosquito and then we fed those mosquitoes in a laboratory virus, we found that just Wolbachia by itself,
without any fancy tricks, would stop the transmission of the viruses. Wolbachia was stopping, not just dengue, but
yellow fever, chikungunya, Zika, Mayaro, a whole range of viruses and so it was a major discovery. But introducing Wolbachia bacteria to disease carrying mosquitoes like the Aedes
aegypti isn’t easy. In fact, the only way to do it is to inject
freshly laid mosquito eggs with the bacterium. This process takes time. O’Neill’s team has spent more than five years
building their colony of a few thousand mosquitoes. But that was the hard part. Now, nature takes over. This bacterium transmits itself vertically
from a mother to her offspring, so it gets carried in the egg. So what Wolbachia does is that if it’s in
a female it will be transmitted and so that female can mate with either males
that have Wolbachia, or males that don’t and she’ll produce eggs, and those eggs
will all have Wolbachia. The trick though is the other way. If the male has Wolbachia, but the female doesn’t
have Wolbachia, then she will lay eggs and all her eggs will die. The end result of that is that only females
that have Wolbachia are able to reproduce. And so Wolbachia then spreads into the insect population without having to be infectious, without having to jump from one individual to another. In Yogyakarta, whenever you go to the community
and you ask, ”Do you know anyone that had dengue before?” my guess is that everyone will answer “Yes.” Because it’s so common, and it’s still created
a panic within the community. People often, who live in transmission areas,
live with a lot of fear about dengue. Actually it’s a family of viruses.
It can be grouped into four groups. And unimaginatively, they’re called dengue 1, 2, 3, and 4. When you get infected, say, with dengue 1,
your body makes antibodies against dengue 1, and so it’s much harder for you to then acquire
dengue 1 again, the second time. But those antibodies don’t protect you for
dengue 2, 3, or 4. But not only that, those antibodies will
make it easier for dengue 2, 3, and 4 to get into your body and cause disease and
actually create potentially more severe disease. And so it’s possible that
you could get dengue four times. And each time you get it, you could potentially
become more sick and at greater risk of dying. Yogyakarta is where the group is conducting
a major study. They’re collecting data on how successful
Wolbachia is in stopping dengue transmissions. The first batch of mosquitoes
was released here in 2014. We worked with the community far before we
released the mosquitoes to make sure that they understand that what
we are targeting is the virus, not just the mosquitoes. This project would not have been possible
without the community understanding. Because the idea was like a controversy. Let’s think about it for a minute. We’re going to come in, a bunch of scientists and we’re going to release mosquitoes
into the community. And these mosquitoes are going to bite you. And all you’ve heard for the last 50 years
of your life is that you have to kill mosquitoes, because they’re dangerous. You would imagine the community
would be very cautious. I’d be cautious or I’d wanna know a lot
about what’s going on. And I think community is like that, and we understand
that, and we’ve really tried to address that. And by doing that, we’ve had virtually no opposition. Communities are a huge part of the project
and the team spends time explaining the science behind their intervention. But they’re also involving them
in the mosquito releases. People take in the buckets with mosquito eggs
and take care of them until the eggs hatch. In this space mosquitoes are being grown
that contain Wolbachia. So that we can collect eggs off them and then those eggs will be distributed into the community. In Yogyakarta we’re using human volunteers for feeding. Some of the researchers have been bitten probably more than a million times by mosquitoes with Wolbachia. All for the sake of disease prevention. The team keeps monitoring how many mosquitoes
in the wild have Wolbachia, and continues to release them until they reach
a certain threshold. Once this is done, the bacteria sustain themselves
in the mosquito population and the method doesn’t have to be repeated. Current data shows around 70%
reduction in dengue cases in the areas where Wolbachia mosquitoes
were released. But we think it’s a big underestimate, because
if you spend a little bit of time in Yogyakarta, you’ll notice that everybody’s on motorbikes
traveling everywhere. And so it’s possible that they’ve gone out, been bitten by a mosquito and then come back in and then get counted as in the intervention area. And it looks like, you know, everything that we’ve seen in the laboratory, our mathematical modeling, everything is coming together to suggest that
we’re gonna have a big impact on disease. By the end of this year the team’s Wolbachia
method will cover about three million people around the world. But they want to reach at least 100 million by 2023. The ambition for our program is big, but the
problem is huge. Eliminating diseases is very challenging. I think if you look at polio today, you can bring
polio down to very low levels. But to do the final elimination, so there
is no more cases, very challenging. Smallpox is an example, there aren’t too many others out there. Spreading Wolbachia mosquitoes around half
of the planet is a monumental task. It would require a huge injection of funding
and a coordinated effort of governments. But the three billion people at risk of such dangerous
viruses motivates the team to keep fighting. There’s an obsessive nature to the work that we do. And I think that sits behind a lot of science,
to have an idea and then to really hold onto it and then work and work and work and work,
until we’re successful. And so my hope would be that we could eliminate
dengue at some point.

100 thoughts on “Reversing The World’s Fastest Spreading Disease

  1. I'm from Sri Lanka
    and Dengue kills thousands of people every year in Sri Lanka and It's really sad to see specially little kids dying because of this. Still no proper cure.

  2. Dengue used to be common in the Philippines during the rainy season. But in recent years it's quite common all year round.

  3. I have another idea there is no more a murderous, invasionist and destructive species than humans, instead of killing off mosquitoes maybe we should all kill ourselves. I mean the mosquitoes are there for a reason.

  4. Tamil Nadu government is promoting drinking Nilavembu water (Andrographis paniculata) as a precautionary measure along with teaching awareness about keeping our environment out of any old unused things which hold drinking water, Like old tubes which have rain water and to destroy those old things.

    It is observed that Nilavembu water provides protection against CHIKV and DENV-2 during active infection as well can help to prevent virus infection in the cells. Also it is used to prevent dehydration and control the virus if the patient is affected by dengue with 100% survival rate.

  5. Researches can surely stop their breeding by genetically modifying it. But they won't eliminate all mosquitoes. Because if there is no disease who would buy those medicines? They spread such diseases in poor countries and sell their drugs to them to earn money.

  6. If americans pharmacies made that?
    I really sceptic, sin ce americans love making people lives as a bussiness

    What a jerk

  7. i once hot dengue when i was just 2 years old i got dengue and although i dont really remember it imcan definitely confirm something…

    it. was. horrible.

  8. Obligatory comment from person who lives in Yogyakarta here. As far as i know about 1-2 years ago a bunch of scientist together with local university and supported by the goverment too, educating local communities about spreading this new variety of mosquitoes who can stop the spreading of dengue fever. We havent heard any official result yet whether this program was succesfull but from my own observation within my own communities, the cases seems to be lessening.
    It's nearing the rainy season again when dengue cases usually worsen so i guess we'll see. But if this project is indeed working then i guess we got this project and the people who were working behind it to thank for.

  9. "If you speak to anybody that's had a bad dose of dengue, they'll tell you it's one of the worst things that happened to them in their life."

    Can confirm.

  10. Hospitals in India are currently filled with dengue patients. It's really unfortunate no one is covering this topic.

  11. Not to hurt anyone's feelings but if nature could speak it would say: No matter how much you intervene with your knowledge, I'll find new ways to kill a huge number of humans. Control your population or else I will.

  12. humanity is thankful to you and your team Pro Scott o'Neil.
    I wish you live eternally and solve much more big problems.. BIG Thank you

  13. I had dengue fever once and was taken to the hospital literally on 1st January this year, BOi the itch was UNBEARABLE. Any kinds of cloth will worsen the itch including, bedsheets, blankets, even your clothes.
    That’s not even the worst part, I had to go through multiple blood tests a day to make sure I’m ok because the disease worsen very fast.

  14. What's all the world governments are doing, they need to come together & support theses Intivatves, or let us know why the delay is, addressing all the pro & cons

  15. "Mosquitoes are really tough to kill and the thought of killing every single one of them just seems impossible" Pfft..Not with that attitude we won't. No one said they are easy to kill. No one thought we could land on the moon but we did! Where's the hunger!? Where's the motivation!? It takes real passion and dedication to KILL every single last one of those sons of bitches from the face of this earth!!

  16. Watching this while recovering from dengue after contracting it for 2nd time in a span of 3 years.
    Much grateful to this person for his efforts.

  17. Hospitals are full of dengue patients in our area that is kutch , gujarat , india. May this method will applying here soon.

  18. Ive survived 2 dengue fever in my lifetime and lost loved ones because of it.. seeing this video gives me hope that we have something to defeat this evil plague

  19. Nature: Hmm, world is getting too populated with humans. Time to send mosquitoes with Dengue.
    Humans: Hold my Wolbachia!

    Nature: F*ck..

  20. They would have to continue infecting the mosquito population for life as foreign mosquitoes brought on via ships would repopulate the non-infected mosquitoes.

    It is still a commendable effort.

  21. In India Banglore, the problem is very worse, we 4 room mates got dengue in 2 days, we are hospitalized for 1week(may 2019). There is no medicine or vaxcine till now. The treatment is to make you as strong as possible so that your body can make antibody. It decreasees your platelet count in blood my was down to 50k , where normal is 1lack 50k.

    I changed my lifestyle, changed room, and not once got bitten by mosquito for last 6 months which needs lot of work to make this happen

  22. I had dengue recently. I almost had my last breath due to internal hemorrhage. Thank you for this Nobel cause. I will love to be a part of your Nobel cause.

  23. what about bed bugs, another bug which bites humans and is on a rampant rise across North America, what sicknesses can they spread and is anyone looking at solutions before it blows up in our streets?

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