In one of the largest favelas in Rio de Janeiro, local children who breed mosquitoes infected with wolbachia Bacteria in margarine jars are a key part of Brazil’s most successful initiative against infectious diseases
2 August 2022
VITÓRIA LAĺS DE SOUZA GOMES, a shy 14-year-old with long dark hair, brushes aside the wires dangling from a utility pole and climbs onto a platform overlooking her neighborhood, Complexo da Maré. With more than 130,000 residents, this sprawl of 16 favelas, or slums, is one of the largest and most densely populated parts of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Vitória jumps down and leads me to a house. It is narrow, humid and hot. Vitória pushes her mother away, goes into the kitchen and takes an empty jar of margarine out of a drawer: it’s her mosquito breeding ground.
The tub is home to Aedes aegypti, the species that transmits several viral infections, including dengue, chikungunya and Zika. Dengue is the fastest spreading viral disease on the planet, with a 30-fold increase in incidence in the last 50 years. About 390 million people are infected each year and tens of thousands of those. Brazil is the the most affected country in the worldand Complexo da Maré, with its densely packed houses and poor sanitation, is particularly vulnerable to outbreaks.
Which raises the question of why Vitória is encouraging insects that can spread the disease to live in her home. But Vitoria’s mosquitoes are different. …