• Breeding more of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito - infected with a bacteria - may be the best way to fight Zika. (AAP)Source: AAP
The best way to stop Zika may be found in a cardboard take-away box invented by Aussie researchers.
By
Alyssa Braithwaite

3 Jun 2016 - 4:02 PM  UPDATED 3 Jun 2016 - 4:02 PM

They're small enough to be kept in the kind of cardboard box that you get take-away food in, but they might just be a way to stop Zika in its tracks.

The boxes contain a strip of material impregnated with 50 female mosquito eggs, pellets of mosquito food, and breeding instructions.

The catch?

The eggs have been infected with a bacteria, so that the mozzies born will produce offspring unable to transmit a variety of diseases - including Zika.

The Mozzie Box is the work of researchers from Melbourne's Monash University, who have been trying to develop a way to stop dengue, another mosquito-spread disease, by intentionally breeding mosquitoes with bacteria.

The eggs of the Aedes mosquito - the kind that transmits diseases like Zika, dengue, yellow fever and more - are injected with a bacteria called Wolbachia, which renders the grown mosquitoes essentially harmless. 

"We've been working with our Wolbachia mosquitoes up in north Queensland since about 2010 now, and the Mozzie Box is the latest iteration of how we can go out and actually release our mosquitoes into the local population," Dr Andrew Turley, the Australian project development manager for the Eliminate Dengue research program tells SBS Science.

"The Mozzie Boxes involve the community going out and releasing those mosquitoes themselves."

Now the team are able to apply their research to the global threat posed by Zika virus.

"Zika virus has emerged recently, and we've been really encouraged to see the results that we've had come out of our Wolbachia mosquitoes show that not only does Wolbachia block dengue, but it also blocks Zika virus as well, so potentially it could be used to reduce the transmission of dengue and Zika all around the world - which is extremely exciting," says Dr Turley. 

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been helping to fund the Australian researchers, and this week the CEO Susan Desmond-Hellmann showed off the Mozzie Box at Code Conference

Dr Turley says they hope to roll out trials in other parts of the world soon.

"We certainly hope that the work we're doing now can actually lead the way to doing some larger trials, and we certainly hope that this great, simple Aussie innovation of how to release mosquitoes can actually be part of the tool kit that can help spread the Wolbachia bacteria into populations around the world," he says.

"It's a great simple little bit of science." 

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