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The skyline of Belo Horizonte, Brazil
The skyline of Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Belo Horizonte is a city with natural scenery, informal settlements, and infrastructure that witnessed the euphoria of soccer matches during the World Cup in 2014. It is also the location of the traditional houses of Cidade Jardim and the internationally known Chapel of St. Francis of Assisi, created by architect Oscar Niemeyer. 

Its tropical climate with a dry season and pleasant temperature throughout the year, as well as the economic impulse for tourism, culture and business, has converted it into an attractive point for migration. Its metropolitan region is inhabited by a little more than 5 million Brazilians, making it the 3rd most populated city in the country and the 6th in Latin America.

It is logical that, as its population grew, so did the demand for public services, including those related to health. The World Mosquito Program, with the leadership of Fiocruz and in partnership with the Ministry of Health and local governments, expanded its operations from Rio de Janeiro and Niterói (RJ) to other regions of the country, such as Campo Grande, Petrolina and the city of Belo Horizonte, where engagement activities with the population have been carried out since 2020.

This year, the hosting of mosquito traps began in the homes of the volunteer hosts, or anfitriões as they are called in Brazil. One of them is Karla Cristina Alves Rodriguez. Since the arrival of the World Mosquito Program in the San Gabriel neighborhood, she volunteered to keep one of the mosquito traps in her house.

"I love to contribute to science with Fiocruz and the World Mosquito Program to fight dengue, Zika and chikungunya."
Karla Cristina Alves Rodriguez
Karla Cristina Alves Rodriguez, a community volunteer in Brazil

She is one of 886 volunteers to date who are supporting the monitoring stage of Wolbachia  releases. After we release mosquitoes over several weeks, we ask volunteers to host mosquito traps in their homes. These traps capture mosquitoes, which are collected by a World Mosquito Program staff member periodically. These mosquitoes are then taken back to our lab, where they are analyzed to determine whether or not they carry Wolbachia. It is then determined whether the "wolbitos" – as the Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes with Wolbachia are called in Brazil – have managed to establish themselves in the neighbourhoods.

World Mosquito Program staff speaking to community members in Belo Horizonte, Brazil
World Mosquito Program staff speaking to community members in Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Karla Cristina speaks with clarity and enthusiasm, demonstrating a genuine interest in the science behind the Wolbachia method and how easy it is to participate as a volunteer. 

"I have the trap connected to the electricity socket all day long and its energy consumption is really minimal, in fact I haven't seen any variation in the electricity bill before and after having it. I am a volunteer, proud hostess and I invite all the residents of Belo Horizonte to help science and the city by having a trap in their homes."

Her work as a volunteer is not just about being a hostess. Karla Cristina has taken her enthusiasm to the school, where she is a teacher. 

"I teach the Banking Apprenticeship course at the Menino Jesus School in Belo Horizonte. Although at first what I teach may not have so much relation with my work as a hostess, I believe that in this life everything is related, so I am always sharing the information of the WMP project to my students, in order for them - at 15 and 16 years old - to pass it onto their parents and, who knows, maybe some of the families will become hosts, too."

The World Mosquito Program's work in Belo Horizonte, as in other cities around the world, has led to an encouraging decrease in dengue thanks in large part to people like Karla Cristina, who sees a beautiful future on the horizon for her city.