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This is our story. From the discovery of Wolbachia, to the progress we're making in communities around the world.

1924

Wolbachia is discovered

Two American scientists, Marshall Hertig and S. Burt Wolbach, discover a bacterium in the common house mosquito, which they name Culex pipiens. Following further study, Hertig later names the bacterium Wolbachia pipientis in 1936.

1924

Wolbachia is discovered

Two American scientists, Marshall Hertig and S. Burt Wolbach, discover a bacterium in the common house mosquito, which they name Culex pipiens. Following further study, Hertig later names the bacterium Wolbachia pipientis in 1936.

Wolbachia is discovered
1924
Wolbachia is discovered
1980

Scott O’Neill starts working on Wolbachia and dengue

Professor Scott O’Neill begins working on Wolbachia in the 1980s at the University of Queensland in Australia, and on dengue in 1991, when he takes up an academic position at Yale University in the United States in the School of Public Health.

1980

Scott O’Neill starts working on Wolbachia and dengue

Scott O’Neill starts working on <i>Wolbachia</i> and dengue

Professor Scott O’Neill begins working on Wolbachia in the 1980s at the University of Queensland in Australia, and on dengue in 1991, when he takes up an academic position at Yale University in the United States in the School of Public Health.

Scott O’Neill starts working on Wolbachia and dengue
1980
Scott O’Neill starts working on Wolbachia and dengue
Scott O’Neill starts working on <i>Wolbachia</i> and dengue
1990

The 1990s decade begins, one which will see a big leap forward in our Wolbachia research and a huge discovery on how Wolbachia affects the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases...

1990
1994

Professor O’Neill successfully infects fruit flies with Wolbachia

Professor O’Neill and his team attempt to infect Drosophila fruit flies with a species of Wolbachia that is found in some types of mosquitoes. Their attempts are successful.

1994
Professor O’Neill successfully infects fruit flies with Wolbachia
<i>Wolbachia</i> ‘popcorn’ strain is discovered
1997

Wolbachia ‘popcorn’ strain is discovered

Seymour Benzer, a renowned molecular biologist, publishes a paper reporting the discovery of a strain of Wolbachia that can shorten the lifespan of Drosophila fruit flies.

Benzer names the strain of Wolbachia ‘popcorn’ (wMelPop). As the fly ages, the cells become packed with the Wolbachia, similar to a bag of popcorn filling up as it’s microwaved. 

Professor O’Neill reads Benzer’s paper and realises that lifespan is important to the epidemiology of mosquito-transmitted diseases. He is inspired to introduce the popcorn variant into mosquito populations to shorten the lifespan of mosquitoes. This way even small reductions in mosquito lifespan could have very big impacts on human disease.

<i>Wolbachia</i> ‘popcorn’ strain is discovered
1997
Wolbachia ‘popcorn’ strain is discovered
2000

The 2000s decade begins, one that will see a generous funding grant establish the research project which would eventually evolve into the World Mosquito Program...

2000

The 2000s decade begins, one that will see a generous funding grant establish the research project which would eventually evolve into the World Mosquito Program...

2000
2004

Professor O’Neill’s team wins funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Professor O’Neill, and his team of scientists at the University of Queensland, are awarded a 5-year grant for US$6 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

2004

Professor O’Neill’s team wins funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Professor O’Neill’s team wins funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Professor O’Neill, and his team of scientists at the University of Queensland, are awarded a 5-year grant for US$6 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Professor O’Neill’s team wins funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
2004
Professor O’Neill’s team wins funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Professor O’Neill’s team wins funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
2005

Connor McMeniman successfully transfers Wolbachia to Aedes agypti mosquitoes

Using the funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the research project is officially established under the name Eliminate Dengue Program.

After injecting more than 10,000 mosquito embryos with Wolbachia from Drosophila fruit flies, graduate student Connor McMeniman successfully transfers the popcorn (wMelPop) strain into Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

2005

Connor McMeniman successfully transfers Wolbachia to Aedes agypti mosquitoes

Connor McMeniman successfully transfers <i>Wolbachia</i> to <i>Aedes agypti</i> mosquitoes

Using the funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the research project is officially established under the name Eliminate Dengue Program.

After injecting more than 10,000 mosquito embryos with Wolbachia from Drosophila fruit flies, graduate student Connor McMeniman successfully transfers the popcorn (wMelPop) strain into Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

Connor McMeniman successfully transfers Wolbachia to Aedes agypti mosquitoes
2005
Connor McMeniman successfully transfers Wolbachia to Aedes agypti mosquitoes
Connor McMeniman successfully transfers <i>Wolbachia</i> to <i>Aedes agypti</i> mosquitoes
2006

Vietnam partners with the program

Vietnam becomes one of the first countries outside Australia to partner with the program, under the oversight of Vietnam’s National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology.

2006

Vietnam partners with the program

Vietnam partners with the program

Vietnam becomes one of the first countries outside Australia to partner with the program, under the oversight of Vietnam’s National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology.

Vietnam partners with the program
2006
Vietnam partners with the program
Vietnam partners with the program
2007

Cairns, Australia, starts preparing for the first field trial

The program begins engaging with community members in Cairns, Australia, to prepare for the first field trial.

2007

Cairns, Australia, starts preparing for the first field trial

The program begins engaging with community members in Cairns, Australia, to prepare for the first field trial.

Cairns, Australia, starts preparing for the first field trial
2007
Cairns, Australia, starts preparing for the first field trial
2008

The team discovers that Wolbachia prevents dengue transmission

Our research team makes a crucial breakthrough. Not only do they successfully produce dengue-carrying mosquitoes that consistently pass Wolbachia to their offspring, they also make an unexpected discovery – the Wolbachia bacterium actually prevents dengue replication. 

This discovery changes our research focus. We no longer need to shorten the lifespan of the mosquitoes. If the mosquitoes live their regular lifespans, they have more time to breed and pass on the Wolbachia, which stops the virus from passing from mosquitoes to humans.

This method has the potential to be self-sustaining because the mosquitoes continue to spread Wolbachia from one generation to the next, without the need to continually reintroduce new Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes.

2008

The team discovers that Wolbachia prevents dengue transmission

Our research team makes a crucial breakthrough. Not only do they successfully produce dengue-carrying mosquitoes that consistently pass Wolbachia to their offspring, they also make an unexpected discovery – the Wolbachia bacterium actually prevents dengue replication. 

This discovery changes our research focus. We no longer need to shorten the lifespan of the mosquitoes. If the mosquitoes live their regular lifespans, they have more time to breed and pass on the Wolbachia, which stops the virus from passing from mosquitoes to humans.

This method has the potential to be self-sustaining because the mosquitoes continue to spread Wolbachia from one generation to the next, without the need to continually reintroduce new Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes.

The team discovers that Wolbachia prevents dengue transmission
2008
The team discovers that Wolbachia prevents dengue transmission
CSIRO undertakes risk analysis of our program
2010

CSIRO undertakes risk analysis of our program

The Australian Government’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) undertakes an independent risk analysis of our program and finds the risks to be ‘negligible’, which is the lowest possible rating. 

Subsequently, our program receives regulatory approval from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for the first release of Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes in Australia.

Here is the CSIRO's report.

CSIRO undertakes risk analysis of our program
2010
CSIRO undertakes risk analysis of our program
We release the first <i>Wolbachia</i>-carrying mosquitoes in the Cairns region
2011

We release the first Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes in the Cairns region

The release of Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes in the Cairns region is the first time we release these mosquitoes into a community.

“The field trial involved releasing Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes every week for 10 weeks. Five weeks after the final release, it was determined that 100% of the mosquitoes at Yorkeys Knob carried Wolbachia and 90% in Gordonvale. That was a great day.” ― Professor O’Neill

We release the first <i>Wolbachia</i>-carrying mosquitoes in the Cairns region
2011
We release the first Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes in the Cairns region
2012

Indonesia and Brazil partner with the program

Indonesia and Brazil become the next two countries to join our program, in partnership with local universities and health departments.

2012
Indonesia and Brazil partner with the program
Colombia partners with the program
2013

Colombia partners with the program

Colombia joins the program, thanks to a partnership with the University of Antioquia. 

Vietnam runs its first trial in Tri Nguyen Island.

Colombia partners with the program
2013
Colombia partners with the program
Brazil and Indonesia release their first <i>Wolbachia</i>-carrying mosquitoes
2014

Brazil and Indonesia release their first Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes

The first city-wide trial begins in Townsville, Australia.

Brazilian communities release their first batch of Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes in Rio de Janeiro.

Indonesian communities release their first batch of Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes in Yogyakarta. Yogyakarta is a densely populated city with a high prevalence of dengue outbreaks. Bill Gates visits the project site and helps to blood-feed the mosquitoes. 

Vietnam’s program expands on Tri Nguyen Island, on the south-central coast of Vietnam.

Brazil and Indonesia release their first <i>Wolbachia</i>-carrying mosquitoes
2014
Brazil and Indonesia release their first Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes
2015

No local dengue cases where Wolbachia is established in Cairns

In Australia, Cairns experiences a dengue outbreak. However, there are no local dengue transmissions in areas where Wolbachia is established.

Colombia begins its first trial in Paris, in the neighbourhood of Bello.

2015
No local dengue cases where Wolbachia is established in Cairns
Zika outbreaks rock the world
2016

Zika outbreaks rock the world

Zika is declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO Vector Control Advisory Group reviews new vector control tools that could be used in response to the Zika virus outbreak. They recommend further Wolbachia pilot deployments as a potential measure to tackle this global health emergency.

The program is granted $18 million to fight Zika using our Wolbachia method. Funding is provided by a coalition including the Wellcome Trust, the US Agency for International Development, the UK Government, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Using the grant, we immediately begin planning for large-scale deployment.

Zika outbreaks rock the world
2016
Zika outbreaks rock the world
2017

We become the World Mosquito Program

The Eliminate Dengue Program becomes the World Mosquito Program to reflect how our Wolbachia method can prevent other mosquito-borne diseases, including Zika and chikungunya.

India, Sri Lanka, Vanuatu, Fiji and Kiribati form partnerships with the program.        

Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam, Australia and Colombia announce further releases.

2017
We become the World Mosquito Program
The Townsville trial is successful and we deploy mosquitoes using unmanned aerial vehicles in Fiji
2018

The Townsville trial is successful and we deploy mosquitoes using unmanned aerial vehicles in Fiji

We publish a research paper that shows our Townsville trial is successful – there have been no locally transmitted dengue cases over the previous four rainy seasons, since Wolbachia was established in the targeted release areas.

We partner with WeRobotics to conduct our first-ever unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) trial to release Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes in Fiji.

New Caledonia and Mexico form partnerships with the World Mosquito Program.   

Further releases are announced in Northern Queensland, Australia, and for the first time, local health authorities lead the implementation of the Wolbachia method, with our technical support.

The Townsville trial is successful and we deploy mosquitoes using unmanned aerial vehicles in Fiji
2018
The Townsville trial is successful and we deploy mosquitoes using unmanned aerial vehicles in Fiji
The <i>Wolbachia</i> method can fight yellow fever
2019

The Wolbachia method can fight yellow fever

New research from Brazil confirms our Wolbachia method limits yellow fever transmission in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, reducing the threat of urban disease outbreaks. Our method has now been shown to be effective against four mosquito-borne diseases: dengue, Zika, chikungunya and yellow fever.

A new study in Nature Microbiology finds that, due to climate change, half the world’s population could be at risk of contracting mosquito-borne diseases by 2050.

We announce that there have been no locally acquired cases of dengue in Cairns for the past 5 years, in areas where we'd released Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes. This also shows our method can be deployed at a city-wide scale.

Brazil announces further large-scale releases.

Fiji and New Caledonia commence further releases.

The <i>Wolbachia</i> method can fight yellow fever
2019
The Wolbachia method can fight yellow fever
2020

The World Mosquito Program will continue to expand its reach throughout the 2020s in helping to protect the global community from mosquito-borne diseases. Follow our progress and get involved...

2020

The World Mosquito Program will continue to expand its reach throughout the 2020s in helping to protect the global community from mosquito-borne diseases. Follow our progress and get involved...

2020