Wolbachia’s Technological Innovation Research is Appreciated by the World

FK-KMK UGM. Gadjah Mada University (UGM) proudly and gratefully gives appreciation to the Yogyakarta World Mosquito Program (WMP) research team which has received international recognition with the inclusion of the main researcher, Prof. dr. Adi Utarini, MSc., MPH, PhD, in the prestigious list of the 100 most influential people in 2021, according to TIME magazine, which was released on September 15. The Principal Researcher of WMP Yogyakarta and Professor of Gadjah Mada University led a team that investigated Wolbachia technology for dengue control in Yogyakarta.

In line with the motto of being deeply rooted and towering, UGM is promoting research that is able to answer the nation’s challenges and at the same time contribute to UGM’s leadership and academic reputation at the world level. Like the WMP Yogyakarta collaboration (previously named Eliminate Dengue Project – EDP) which is a collaboration between FK-KMK UGM, Monash University and the Tahija Foundation. Wolbachia technology was discovered by the Founder and Director of WMP Global, Prof. Scott O’Neill in 2008. After conducting thousands of experiments, Prof. Scott O’Neill succeeded in isolating Wolbachia from Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) into the eggs of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. WMP, which was initiated by Monash University, is a non-profit organization that exists with the aim of protecting the global community from mosquito-borne diseases. Broadly speaking, WMP operates in 11 countries including Indonesia.

 “Responding to the inclusion of my name in the #100TIME list, I am very grateful, this is a blessing from Allah SWT for our research team at the World Mosquito Program Yogyakarta. This is an appreciation for the researchers and the entire team who have been involved in the research, as well as our partners, namely Monash University, the World Mosquito Global Program, and the Tahija Foundation as a philanthropic institution that fully supports this research. As well as appreciation for the people of Yogyakarta who have been very open to innovation, and the Yogyakarta local government for supporting this research. Hopefully this research will be of wider use, to reduce the burden on society due to dengue,” said the Professor who is usually called Prof. Uut this.

Riris Andono Ahmad, MPH, Ph.D, Assistant Researcher for WMP Yogyakarta and Director of the Center for Tropical Medicine FKKMK UGM, said that research on the development of Wolbachia technology has been started since 2011. In the initial phase of research, it was carried out to ensure the safety of Wolbachia, then continued with release in areas limited. In 2017, the Wolbachia efficacy test using the Randomized Controlled Trial method was carried out in the city of Yogyakarta by dividing the Yogyakarta area into 24 clusters, with 12 clusters receiving Wolbachia intervention, and 12 other clusters being the comparison area.

From the epidemiological aspect, dr. Citra Indriani, MPH, Epidemiology Team Leader of WMP Yogyakarta, explained that during the Wolbachia efficacy test, monitoring of dengue cases in the release area of ​​Aedes aegypti mosquitoes with Wolbachia was carried out by placing research nurses at 17 Puskesmas and Pustu in Yogyakarta City and Sewon 2 Health Center Bantul.

“The results of the Wolbachia efficacy test show encouraging results, namely Wolbachia is effective in reducing 77% of dengue cases, and reducing 86% of dengue cases treated in hospitals,” said dr. Riris or dr. Donnie.

Warsito Tantowijoyo, Ph.D, Entomology Team Leader of WMP Yogyakarta, highlighted the security aspects of Wolbachia. Wolbachia is a natural bacterium found in 60% of insects, and only lives inside the insect’s body. Wolbachia in Aedes aegypti works by inhibiting the development of the dengue virus in the mosquito’s body, so that when a mosquito bites a human, there is no transmission of the dengue virus.

Warsito added that the intervention carried out was by leaving buckets containing Wolbachia-infected mosquito eggs in people’s homes and public facilities. The replacement of Wolbachia-infected mosquito eggs was carried out every 2 weeks, for a period of 6 months. After the release period is complete and strengthened by the results of monitoring the percentage of Wolbachia which has reached 60% or more, the intervention will provide protection to the community from the threat of dengue.

More dr. Eggi Arguni, Sp.A.(K), Ph.D, Diagnostic Team Leader WMP Yogyakarta who coordinated the research in the initial phase said that the application of Wolbachia technology in reducing dengue in the community had begun to be developed after the efficacy was obtained. The results of this study have been published in the leading journal the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) and this technology was reviewed at the 13th meeting of the WHO Vector Control Advisory Group on 7-10 December 2020.

Donnie explained, in 2021, WMP Yogyakarta in collaboration with the Sleman District Government through the Sleman District Health Office began implementing Wolbachia technology. Furthermore, in 2022, this technology will be implemented in Bantul Regency.

“The helping hands of policy makers, both local and central governments, academics, philanthropic institutions, and the private sector, will be very meaningful when this technology is implemented in other areas, to accelerate national efforts against dengue,” concluded dr. Donnie.

UGM hopes that the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Indonesia can begin to adopt Wolbachia technology as one of the national strategies in dengue control and hopes that this WMP Yogyakarta research can inspire researchers in Indonesia to be more active in conducting research that can answer the challenges of the nation and the world. (WMP Yogyakarta Team)