The Environmental Health Institute (EHI) of the National Environment Agency (NEA) said that it had released the first batch of 3,000 male Wolbachia-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquitoes at Braddell Heights on 18 October, as it embarks on its six-month long small-scale field study.
According to NEA, the project has reached a significant milestone, as it enters the second phase of the study after six years of laboratory and risk assessment studies on novel tools for dengue control, and four years specifically on Wolbachia-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.
NEA is embarking on a six-month long small-scale field study to gain a further understanding of the behaviour of male Wolbachia-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito population in Singapore’s urban environment as announced in August this year.
The small-scale field study involves the release of male Wolbachia-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquitoes on a regular basis at three selected sites located within Braddell Heights, Nee Soon East and Tampines West. These male Wolbachia-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquitoes do not bite or transmit diseases.
Dengue Expert Advisory Panel (DEAP) member, Associate Professor Vernon Lee, of the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health said, “The Dengue Expert Advisory Panel fully supports NEA’s plan to use this method to reduce the Aedes aegypti population in Singapore and the transmission of diseases spread by this mosquito, such as dengue and Zika.”
“NEA has done an extensive assessment on the safety of this method, and we are satisfied that it is safe. This field release today is critical to help us understand its effectiveness in the Singapore context, through close monitoring of the trial results. The results will help to calibrate the strategy for maximal mosquito suppression and reduction of dengue in Singapore. As no method is 100% effective, it is important to combine this with other existing methods of mosquito control, such as community-based removal of potential breeding habitats. It is therefore important for everyone to play their part to eradicate mosquito breeding habitats in their surroundings.”
NEA also wrote, “The majority of residents at the selected sites are supportive of the small-scale field study. Some have also volunteered to host fan-based mosquito traps in their homes. We are grateful for the strong support that we have received from the residents and local stakeholders of the selected sites thus far, and we seek their continued support as NEA explores the potential of Wolbachia technology.
Some members of the public are concerned about possible side effects of this experiment and the control measures. Norzana Ismail wrote, “Why wasn’t the public consulted?”, while another commenter, Allan Tiong wrote, “Are you sure this will not lead to another problem we have yet come to know?”
Skeptical commenters such as William Wen wrote in response to the release, saying: ” We are all guinea pigs to the Government’s experiment.” while another online commenter, Jose Cruz wrote, “What if the bacteria mutates as they often do? What then?”
It said that the first release of these mosquitoes at the other two selected sites located at Tampines West and Nee Soon East will be on 28 October 2016 and 15 November 2016, respectively.