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One Scientists 20 Year Effort to Defeat Dengue Fever

Tue, 06/12/2012 - 6:47am
Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog

As I have said many times scientific breakthroughs often follow many years of effort. Here is a great example of a scientist putting in great work for years and it looks like it is about to payoff for hundreds of millions of people.

A Scientist’s 20-Year Quest To Defeat Dengue Fever

Now as I said, Scott’s been pushing this idea of using Wolbachia to control dengue for decades, for a most of that time without any success. I asked Scott what it takes to stick with something for that long.

“I think being obsessive,” he replied. “Being maybe a little ill in that regard. And it’s just that I seem to have focused my obsession onto Wolbachia instead of on to postage stamps or model trains.”

And even though his obsession has brought him to the point where he’s shown he can get his Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes to spread in the wild, that’s not the success he’s ultimately after. “Success for me is having a significant impact on dengue disease in communities,” he says.

To do that, he’ll have to release his mosquitoes in a place where there’s a lot of dengue, and then see if that brings down the number of cases of the disease in humans. Those studies are being planned now.

The stakes are high. By some estimates, more than a billion people around the world are at risk for getting dengue. Even if it doesn’t kill you, I’m told a case of dengue can make you feel so bad, wish you were dead.

But Scott says it’s not yet time to celebrate.

“We’ve got some good preliminary data, and we’re on the path. And it’s looking good. But you know I am a realist. It could fall over at any day,” says Scott.

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