Australian innovation could eliminate dengue in Vanuatu


On Friday 16 March 2018 Minister of Health, Norris Jack Kalmet, and Australian High Commissioner, Jenny Da Rin, launched the World Mosquito Program in Vanuatu. The World Mosquito Program is an Australian-funded global innovation led by Monash University, Melbourne which could eliminate dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases in Vanuatu.

Over coming months, the World Mosquito Program will release thousands of mosquitos across Port Vila and surrounding areas which carry a naturally occurring bacteria called wolbachia. Mosquitos which carry this bacteria are unable to spread dengue, chikungunya and zika.

The method is revolutionary as it has no negative impact on people, animals and the environment and is self-sustaining because the offspring of wolbachia-carrying mosquitos will also be unable to transmit these diseases.

This innovation has been successful trialled in Australia, South America and South East Asia, with dengue almost completely eliminated in trial areas.

“The World Mosquito Program is a huge step forward for health in Vanuatu. Pairing world-class Australian science with local knowledge and resources, this program could see the elimination of life-threatening mosquito-borne diseases like dengue,” said Australian High Commissioner, Jenny Da Rin.

If successful, the risk of people in Vanuatu contracting dengue, zika or chikungunya will be reduced significantly over the next twelve months and into the future. Eliminating these mosquito-borne diseases will reduce the strain on medical services and increase productivity in Vanuatu, with less time taken away from work or school.

“This is an exciting project and has the potential to expand through the country and the Government and the Ministry of Health would be pleased to continue this program throughout Vanuatu and work with development partners who have similar interests in this innovation,” said Minister of Health, Norris Jack Kalmet.

In August 2017, Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced an AUD7.7 million package to pilot the World Mosquito Program in the Pacific, specifically in Vanuatu, Fiji and Kiribati.