“Sometimes, they considered our team members as part of the family.”
Sigit Setyawan and his entomology unit have been trapping and collecting mosquitoes across Yogyakarta city for the past few years.
They use a tool called a BG Trap – a lantern-shaped bucket with a fan that pulls mosquitoes into a net from which they can’t escape. Nearly 400 traps have been positioned in 373 households around the city.
The mosquitoes are being collected for screening at a lab to find out whether they carry the disease blocking bacteria Wolbachia. This will determine how well the bacteria have established within the local mosquito population, particularly in the areas where WMP’s Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes have been released.
After some initial reservations about the release of more mosquitoes into their environment, the local community has embraced the idea with an understanding of the long-term benefit the Wolbachia-mosquitoes can bring.
The analysis has been a key part of WMP’s 3-year randomised controlled trial in Yogyakarta. The study is the first of its kind for the program and the result of the trial is a huge step forward towards expanding the program to urban settings all over the world.
More than 300,000 mosquitoes have been collected for screening, the analysis showing that Wolbachia is well-established in clusters of the city where mosquitoes have been released.
One thing Sigit and his team did not count on was the amazing hospitality and gratitude they were shown by hosts of the traps.
“One of my hosts was the brother of our current Sultan. I felt such pride working with him,” Sigit recalls. “It turns out he was very happy for us to be collecting samples for the project. He would pray for us before we left. He prayed for our safety.
“One day, he surprised us by giving us a piece of batik. It was original, hand-drawn batik. Very high quality I believe. We never expected this. We were so proud. My team and I were just there to collect samples.”
WMP has enjoyed incredible support from the Yogyakarta community during the RCT. There seems a real respect and hopefulness about the impact the method will have. This kind of support has also helped those involved, like Sigit, to feel closely connected with their community.