Guppy the gobbler downs dengue
Sep 12 2013 , New Delhi
This fish species that feeds on mosquito larvae can be a cheap, effective tool to combat the deadly disease
“This is a low-cost, year-round, safe way of reducing the spread of dengue in which the whole community can participate,” said ADB health specialist Gerard Servais. “It offers a viable alternative to using chemicals and can reduce the scale of costly emergency response activities to contain epidemics.”
The community-based project, conducted in two districts in Cambodia and the Lao PDR from 2009 to 2011, resulted in a sharp decline in mosquito larvae in water storage tanks after the tiny fish were introduced, an ADB statement from Manila said on Thursday.
Convincing communities to accept fish in their water containers was a key element of the project. The trial showed that guppies do not harm water quality and can survive on microscopic organic material in the absence of mosquito larvae. At the project close in Cambodia, about 88 per cent of the storage containers contained guppies, with the figure at 76 per cent in Lao PDR.
Around 2.5 billion people worldwide are at risk of contracting dengue, more than 70 per cent of whom live in Asia and the Pacific. The threat of exposure to dengue-carrying mosquitoes is rising with uncontrolled urbanisation and a surge in the use of non-biodegradable packaging, which can act as a water reservoir for dengue mosquito breeding.
Dengue is spread by a specific mosquito that breeds readily in standing water, such as found in storage containers, flower pots and discarded tyres — it has been found that guppies are particularly effective in these settings.
Dengue causes severe headaches, joint and muscle pain, high fever and rashes. It is also fatal in a small proportion of cases, if not diagnosed and treated early. As of now, there is still no vaccine or specific medicine to treat this viral disease.