Umeå University-led research on mosquito control and Dengue prevention was presented recently at an international conference held in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 24-26 February. The findings and insights from the EU-funded DengueTools research consortium could enhance preventive efforts currently underway in Brazil and other countries experiencing a Zika virus outbreak.
“Controlling the mosquito Aedes aegypti is the most effective way to prevent the spread of many diseases, including dengue fever and dengue haemorrhagic fever, yellow fever, Zika, chikungunya, epidemic polyarthritis and potentially others,” says Raman Preet, project coordinator for DengueTools. “The main challenge for dengue prevention and control are the movement of viruses and mosquitos facilitated by globalisation. Perhaps equally challenging is building a global disease prevention capacity and generating the political will needed to do so.”
Stem the Tide, which had more than 400 delegates, was held in Sri Lanka, a dengue endemic country that has actively worked on this issue since 2009 when a large epidemic hit Colombo. Sri Lanka provides a unique context because the country, unlike other Southeast Asian countries, enjoys robust political support for research and efforts to control and prevent the spread of this mosquito-carried virus.
The high-level political support was most notable as the President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, opened the conference. Several Sri Lankan government ministers and health directors attended, as did representatives from the pharmaceutical industry, insect control companies and groups working on ways to use Wolbachia bacteria to prevent the spread of the dengue virus.
“The conference might have concluded the DengueTools project, but our team is already working around the clock on a proposal to repurpose this strong research consortium as part of an answer to EU’s call for Zika research,” says Raman Preet. “Targeting Zika would be a perfect continuation for the DengueTools consortium.”
The conference, which was the final dissemination of the DengueTools project, was an opportunity to share findings and forge new research collaborations. The conference was also attended by the two other EU-funded dengue consortia, IDAMS, by Professor Bridget Wills at the University of Oxford, and DENFREE, by Professor Anavaj Sakuntabhai at Institute Pasteur.