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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, 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, 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
1992

Wolbachia is demonstrated to be an extremely widespread natural bacterial infection of insects

Wolbachia are natural bacteria present in up to 60 per cent of insect species, including some mosquitoes. Through a process called cytoplasmic incompatibility, mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia have the potential to replace uninfected host populations over several generations.    

1992

Wolbachia is demonstrated to be an extremely widespread natural bacterial infection of insects

Wolbachia are natural bacteria present in up to 60 per cent of insect species, including some mosquitoes. Through a process called cytoplasmic incompatibility, mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia have the potential to replace uninfected host populations over several generations.    

Wolbachia is demonstrated to be an extremely widespread natural bacterial infection of insects
1992
Wolbachia is demonstrated to be an extremely widespread natural bacterial infection of insects
1994

Wolbachia successfully transferred between distantly related insect species

It is demonstrated that Wolbachia can be successfully transferred between distantly related insect species through embryonic microinjection.

The successful transfer of this symbiont between distantly related hosts suggests that it may be possible to introduce this agent experimentally into arthropod species.

1994
Wolbachia successfully transferred between distantly related insect species
<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

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation offer to help fund our work

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funds our Wolbachia work through the Grand Challenges in Global Health Program. 

The funding comes through a grant from the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health through the Vector-Based Transmission of Control: Discovery Research (VCTR) program of the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

2004

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation offer to help fund our work

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation offer to help fund our work

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funds our Wolbachia work through the Grand Challenges in Global Health Program. 

The funding comes through a grant from the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health through the Vector-Based Transmission of Control: Discovery Research (VCTR) program of the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation offer to help fund our work
2004
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation offer to help fund our work
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation offer to help fund our work
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

We learn that Wolbachia reduces mortality of fruit flies infected with a natural insect virus

Drosophila melanogaster flies infected with Wolbachia are less susceptible to mortality induced by a range of RNA viruses. The antiviral protection associated with Wolbachia infection might be exploited in future strategies to reduce transmission of pathogens by insects.

 

2008

We learn that Wolbachia reduces mortality of fruit flies infected with a natural insect virus

Drosophila melanogaster flies infected with Wolbachia are less susceptible to mortality induced by a range of RNA viruses. The antiviral protection associated with Wolbachia infection might be exploited in future strategies to reduce transmission of pathogens by insects.

 

We learn that Wolbachia reduces mortality of fruit flies infected with a natural insect virus
2008
We learn that Wolbachia reduces mortality of fruit flies infected with a natural insect virus
2009

We discover that Wolbachia prevents the transmission of dengue and other human disease-causing viruses by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes

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.

2009

We discover that Wolbachia prevents the transmission of dengue and other human disease-causing viruses by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes

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.

We discover that Wolbachia prevents the transmission of dengue and other human disease-causing viruses by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes
2009
We discover that Wolbachia prevents the transmission of dengue and other human disease-causing viruses by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes
2009

A life-shortening strain of Wolbachia, wMelPop, is transferred into the mosquito Aedes aegypti

The successful transfer of a life-shortening strain of the inherited bacterial symbiont, Wolbachia, into the major mosquito vector of dengue, Aedes aegypti, halved adult life span under laboratory conditions. The association is stable, and the Wolbachia strain is maternally inherited at high frequency.

Our data suggest that targeting mosquito age with inherited Wolbachia infections may be a viable strategy to reduce the transmission of pathogens such as dengue viruses.

2009
A life-shortening strain of Wolbachia, wMelPop, is transferred into the mosquito Aedes aegypti
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
2011

Scientific paper describes the successful transfer of wMelWolbachia strain into Aedes aegypti

The paper explains how the wMel strain (the main strain used by WMP) is transferred into Aedes aegypti and how it is shown to successfully invade field cage populations of the mosquito.

2011
Scientific paper describes the successful transfer of wMelWolbachia strain into Aedes aegypti
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

We carry out the first field releases of Wolbachia in Northern Australia and demonstrate the proof of concept that it can be deployed successfully with full community acceptance and regulatory approval.

“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
2013

We release the first Wolbachia mosquitoes in Vietnam

The first phase of releases of Wolbachia-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquitoes took place on Tri Nguyen Island, near Nha Trang City in Khanh Hoa Province, in 2013.

2013

We release the first Wolbachia mosquitoes in Vietnam

The first phase of releases of Wolbachia-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquitoes took place on Tri Nguyen Island, near Nha Trang City in Khanh Hoa Province, in 2013.

We release the first Wolbachia mosquitoes in Vietnam
2013
We release the first Wolbachia mosquitoes in Vietnam
2013

Colombia partners with the program

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

2013

Colombia partners with the program

Colombia partners with the program

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

Colombia partners with the program
2013
Colombia partners with the program
Colombia partners with the program
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.

2014

Brazil and Indonesia release their first Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes

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

No dengue transmission where Wolbachia is established in Cairns

Despite a dengue outbreak in the Cairns region, there are no local dengue transmissions in areas where Wolbachia is established.

2015

No dengue transmission where Wolbachia is established in Cairns

Despite a dengue outbreak in the Cairns region, there are no local dengue transmissions in areas where Wolbachia is established.

No dengue transmission where Wolbachia is established in Cairns
2015
No dengue transmission where Wolbachia is established in Cairns
2015

We release the first Wolbachia mosquitoes in Colombia

In May 2015, the community of Paris, in the Bello neighbourhood, welcomed the country’s first release of Wolbachia mosquitoes.

The release came after almost two years of work in the laboratories at the University of Antioquia and extensive engagement with the local community.

2015
We release the first Wolbachia mosquitoes in Colombia
Zika outbreaks declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern
2016

Zika outbreaks declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern

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 declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern
2016
Zika outbreaks declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern
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
2018

Initial Wolbachia mosquito releases take place in Suva, Fiji

After conducting laboratory studies to examine the impact of Wolbachia on dengue and chikungunya viruses in Fiji, and engaging with the community to explain our Wolbachia method and gain their acceptance, we released Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes across the Lami, Suva, Nakasi corridor in 2018–19.

2018
Initial Wolbachia mosquito releases take place in Suva, 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.

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
2018

We release the first Wolbachia mosquitoes in Vanuatu

Between July 2018 and March 2019, Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes were released across Port Vila and surrounding areas, reaching a population of more than 50,000 people.

2018

We release the first Wolbachia mosquitoes in Vanuatu

Between July 2018 and March 2019, Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes were released across Port Vila and surrounding areas, reaching a population of more than 50,000 people.

We release the first Wolbachia mosquitoes in Vanuatu
2018
We release the first Wolbachia mosquitoes in Vanuatu
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.

2019

The Wolbachia method can fight yellow fever

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

We release the first Wolbachia mosquitoes in Mexico

Beginning in January 2019, Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes were released across La Paz. Mexico is the first country in Central America to collaborate with the World Mosquito Program.

2019

We release the first Wolbachia mosquitoes in Mexico

Beginning in January 2019, Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes were released across La Paz. Mexico is the first country in Central America to collaborate with the World Mosquito Program.

We release the first Wolbachia mosquitoes in Mexico
2019
We release the first Wolbachia mosquitoes in Mexico
2019

We release the first Wolbachia mosquitoes in the Central Pacific archipelago, Kiribati

In 2019 we gained community acceptance and we released Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes across South Tarawa and Betio. 

2019

We release the first Wolbachia mosquitoes in the Central Pacific archipelago, Kiribati

In 2019 we gained community acceptance and we released Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes across South Tarawa and Betio. 

We release the first Wolbachia mosquitoes in the Central Pacific archipelago, Kiribati
2019
We release the first Wolbachia mosquitoes in the Central Pacific archipelago, Kiribati
2019

Wolbachia mosquitoes releases begin in New Caledonia

After conducting laboratory studies to examine the impact of Wolbachia on dengue and chikungunya viruses in Nouméa, and engaging with the community to explain our Wolbachia method and gain their acceptance, we began releases of Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes across Nouméa in July 2019.

2019
Wolbachia mosquitoes releases begin in New Caledonia
2019

We expand releases across northern Australia and demonstrate that local dengue transmission is stopped

Short-term releases of Wolbachia mosquitoes were undertaken up to 8 years ago in some communities – monitoring in these areas has shown that Wolbachia has remained in the local mosquitoes during this time, without the need for further releases. Importantly, there has been reduced dengue transmission in these areas, with a 93 per cent reduction in reported dengue cases. It follows the 5-year success of the WMP method in the city of Townsville.

“Far North Queensland is now essentially a dengue-free area for the first time in well over 100 years,” says Dr Richard Gair, Director and Public Health Physician, Tropical Public Health Services Cairns.

2019
We expand releases across northern Australia and demonstrate that local dengue transmission is stopped
2020

First release of Wolbachia mosquitoes in Sri Lanka

After more than two years of preparation, training and community engagement activities, field teams, project partners and community leaders celebrated the first launch of Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes in Colombo, Sri Lanka. 

The pilot project is the first of its kind in the country and aims to help quell the impact of a dengue epidemic that has emerged as a serious public health concern in Sri Lanka.

2020
First release of Wolbachia mosquitoes in Sri Lanka
Results announced from Randomised Controlled Trial, Yogyakarta
2020

Results announced from Randomised Controlled Trial, Yogyakarta

The World Mosquito Program, together with our Indonesian partners the Tahija Foundation and Universitas Gadjah Mada announce the first results of a cluster randomised controlled trial of our Wolbachia method, showing a 77% reduction in the incidence of virologically-confirmed dengue in Wolbachia-treated areas of Yogyakarta, Indonesia, compared to untreated areas.

This is welcome news for the Yogya community and a significant breakthrough for us as we move closer to our target of protecting 500 million people by 2030.

Randomised Controlled Trial Indonesia

Results announced from Randomised Controlled Trial, Yogyakarta
2020
Results announced from Randomised Controlled Trial, Yogyakarta