Warsito feeds mosquitoes every day with his own blood. This might seem like a strange thing to do, but for Warsito and others who work for the World Mosquito Program around the world, it’s a safe and normal daily occurrence.
The World Mosquito Program breeds Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that contain the Wolbachia bacteria, which blocks the transmission of viruses between people. As we breed the mosquitoes in our labs, we need to keep them fed and healthy until they are ready to be released, and in order to do this we need to give them their food source – blood.
Warsito joined the World Mosquito Program in 2012, helping to set up and launch the first project in Indonesia, in the beautiful city of Yogyakarta.
The people of Yogyakarta are friendly and warm, and once they knew that Wolbachia is a safe and natural method to protect their families from deadly diseases, they welcomed the project with open arms – even leaving the key under the mat at the front door so that Warsito and his team could check the mosquito-monitoring traps hosted by community members! The trust that has been built between Warsito and his team and the community is obvious.
“Even when they weren’t at home, sometimes they would leave their keys out or with their neighbours and a note, ‘put the keys here, please come in’. So, there’s trust that they’re keeping for us,” says Warsito.
Warsito has been involved in many aspects of the project: rearing mosquitoes (he’s an entomologist, a scientist who studies insects), community engagement, running events, collaborating with partners, and liaising with the local and national governments.
“And the keys were how to build the communication and transparency. Those are the most important. The best outcome is when we build the knowledge about the project together,” Warsito says.