Thursday, October 20, 2022

BugOut Wolbachia launches on Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands (BVI)

We are excited to announce that the Verily Debug team is collaborating with a not-for-profit organisation, Green VI and their BugOut program on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. The BugOut Program is a community-driven vector control initiative with the mission to reduce Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Aedes aegypti is invasive in the BVI and is a vector of dengue, Zika and chikunguyna diseases and a significant nuisance pest.

The BugOut Program is one of Green VI’s environment-focused initiatives and piggybacks off the waste management effort to clean up neglected containers and piled trash that become breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Through targeted education, data-driven field work and a consistent community presence, Green VI’s BugOut team has successfully reduced mosquito breeding sites by 50% over the past 5 years. The next step to further reduce Aedes aegypti mosquitoes is using a Wolbachia-based incompatible insect technique (IIT). We are excited to be on board and look forward to working on this unique and synergistic approach to mosquito control.

The BugOut Wolbachia tool combines Debug’s expertise in Wolbachia-male releases with Green VI’s ongoing efforts to rid the community of larval breeding sites through education, improved waste management systems and source reduction. We will use our combined sets of tools to suppress Aedes aegypti in the BVI in a way that follows Green VI’s environmentally-conscious and community-driven mission.

We will spend the next several months supporting Green VI’s BugOut team and their community representatives as they evaluate how to integrate a Wolbachia-male Aedes aegypti release program into their toolkit. Our BugOut Wolbachia collaboration started collecting data on the existing mosquito population on Virgin Gorda in February 2022. We have been engaging with the community to share knowledge of how Wolbachia works and how it can be used to reduce mosquitoes and, hopefully, mosquito-borne disease in the BVI. We have also, with community cooperation, completed studies of released Wolbachia male mosquitoes to evaluate their ability to survive and disperse in the field. Virgin Gorda will be the first island in the BVI to pilot the BugOut Wolbachia program as we learn and adapt our methods to match the unique needs of the local community and mosquito population.

We look forward to continuing this shared venture in reducing Aedes aegypti on Virgin Gorda with BugOut Wolbachia. Fewer mosquitoes in the BVI will help reduce the incidence of mosquito-borne diseases and also promises to reduce nuisance biting, enhance tourism and diversify the BugOut toolkit with an additional non-toxic, eco-friendly approach to mosquito control.