Fighting Dengue Fever With Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

With the ongoing Dengue fever outbreak in Singapore I wonder if they are thinking of experimenting with this option. The video was created by the Wellcome Trust (a UK based non-profit medical research organization) on this effort to fight the Dengue virus.

Oxitec is experimenting with genetically modified male mosquitoes that are infertile. So when they mate no offspring are born. They are able to target the specific mosquitoes that carry dengue (because those mosquitoes are genetically distinct from other mosquitoes).

From Oxitec’s Dengue Information Center:

Dengue fever is the fastest growing mosquito-borne disease, affecting over 50 million people each year across the world, and continuing to grow both in prevalence and severity.

There are around 25,000 fatalities each year and severe cases require hospitalisation and constant monitoring. Dengue is an extremely expensive disease, estimated to cost the global economy over US$5 billion per year.

Dengue is caused by four different, but related, viruses (known as DENV-1,2,3 and 4). Once infected, a person can develop a lifelong immunity to that strain of the virus but can become more susceptible to the other three strains.

Related: One Scientists 20 Year Effort to Defeat Dengue FeverSingapore Government’s Campaign Against Dengue FeverWorld Health Organization Dengue Fact SheetSingaporeโ€™s Health Care SystemExtremely Bad Haze in Johor Bahru and SingaporeVideo showing malaria breaking into cellEngineering Mosquitoes to be Flying Vaccinators (2010)

Singapore’s Health Care System

The Singapore Health Care system costs in Singapore costs less than 25% of that in the USA and results are better. In Singapore everyone has 6-8% deducted from your income for a medisave account that is used for hospitalized medical expenses. The government subsidizes the health care system but the system is based significantly on the consumers paying (from their medisave account or cash) and therefore making economic decisions.

The medical system in Singapore has been designed with much more attention to costs than the USA system. Hip replacement costs US$43,00 in the USA and US$12,000 in Singapore. A heart bypass costs US$127,000 in the USA versus US$22,500 in Singapore.

The quality of Singapore health care is at the highest level worldwide. There is health insurance available in Singapore though many rely just on the medisave accounts. Catosrpohic health care coverage is widely used.

What we can learn from Singapore’s health-care model

Matching Singapore’s performance in our $15 trillion economy would free up $2 trillion a year for other public and private purposes.

roughly one-third of health spending in Singapore is paid directly by individuals (who typically buy catastrophic coverage as well); in the United States, by contrast, nearly 90 percent is picked up by third-party insurers, employers and governments. Singaporeans make these payments out of earnings as well as from health savings accounts. The system is chock-full of incentives for thrift. If you want a private hospital room, for example, you pay through the nose; most people choose less expensive wards.

Supply-side rules that favor training new family doctors over pricey specialists are more extensive than similar notions Hillary Clinton pushed in the ’90s. And in Singapore, if a child is obese, they don’t get Rose Garden exhortations from the first lady. They get no lunch and mandatory exercise periods during school.

Singapore Ministry of Health on the system:

Singapore healthcare begins with building a healthy population through preventive healthcare programmes and promoting a healthy lifestyle.

Good, affordable basic healthcare is available to Singaporeans through subsidised medical services at public hospitals and clinics. Our hospitals and healthcare system will never withhold help to a Singaporean because of financial limitations. Yet our philosophy promotes individual responsibility towards healthy living and medical expenses.

Medisave may be used for the outpatient treatments of four chronic diseases (diabetes, high blood pressure, lipid disorder and stroke), which affects about 1 million Singaporeans. MediShield provides a low cost catastrophic illness insurance scheme, designed to help members meet medical expenses from major or prolonged illnesses.

In 2008, Singapore spent about S$ 10.2 billion or 3.9% of GDP on healthcare. Out of this the Government expended S$2.7 billion or 1.0% of GDP on health services.

Related: More details on the Singapore health care systemUSA Spends Record $2.5 Trillion, $8,086 per person 17.6% of GDP on Health Care in 2009The USA Pays Double for Worse Health Results