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How children are winning the fight against dengue in a Rio favela

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

Health


2 August 2022

Complexo da Maré, home to 130,000 people, is one of the largest collections of favelas in Brazil.

VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP via Getty Images

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.

Vit?ria La?s de Souza Gomes, 15, a resident of Mar?, at the entrance of her apartment, dressed in her yellow ?She's Against Dengue?  - in English: heroes against dengue.

Vitória Laís de Souza Gomes has been a key player in the fight against infectious diseases in her favela

kristin bethge

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. …

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