Sometimes it is best to fight fire with fire. By infecting mosquitoes with bacteria called Wolbachia (shown in pink colonising the abdomen of a mosquito), other pathogens, such as the virus that causes dengue fever, find it hard to get a foothold inside the insect. This would be great news except research suggests that Wolbachia may turn mosquitoes into sitting ducks for other viruses that prey on humans. West Nile Virus is one of them, which despite its African name, is now a disease of global scale. Since emerging in the US in 1999 for example, it now accounts for around 300 deaths a year – figures set to get even worse as climate change makes ever greater tracts of the globe suitable for mosquitoes. So in preventing one disease, scientists may be creating a whole different problem. Proof that when you play with fire, you sometimes get burnt.
Written by Jan Piotrowski
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