Print, electronic and social media are actively reporting the presence of dengue in the capital city of Islamabad and neighboring Rawalpindi. This is quite a precarious situation and demands immediate attention as far as its control is involved. Heightened concern for dengue is due to the presence of country governance machinery, leadership, and international community residing in the vicinities. As a biotechnologist, I am more concerned about its recurrence and potential to harm everyone in the city. The safest corner of the capital city is even not safe from dengue attack. Because dengue spreading mosquito is an elite breed with a capability to lay eggs and reproduce in clean and neat available water reservoirs even the size of a teacup. Of importance, there is no suitable treatment for the dengue fever caused by this virus or an effective vaccine. Clinicians mainly treat dengue fever patient’s symptoms and boosting the immunity, thus halting the progression of viral infection to its hemorrhagic state. As excessive bleeding internally as well as externally is considered quite dangerous as far as the health outcomes are concerned in severe stages of dengue fever.

Briefly, the dengue virus belongs to a group of infectious viruses transmitted with the help of two types of mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti, and Aedes albopictus. Mainly the former type is responsible for the transmission of infection across the globe, although, in countries like Hong Kong, the albopictus transmits dengue fever causing virus. According to the World Health Organization, there are three stages of dengue fever starting with a flu-like illness to hemorrhagic conditions associated with failure of internal organs, mainly the heart and liver, leading to severe consequences. Nations across the world having winter temperature, not below ten degrees centigrade/55-degree Fahrenheit that constitute almost one-half of the world is at risk of dengue virus spread. Some are still safe, whereas, others like Pakistan have become a breeding ground for this mosquito posing a health risk to the entire nation.

One of the more precarious characteristics of dengue fever causing virus is that it has four different types named DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3, and DEN-4, and all equally capable of causing dengue fever. Moreover, infection with one type of virus does not protect that person from attack from the other types. Importantly, infection with the second type bears dangerous health consequences. Four types of dengue have challenged vaccine development efforts, and the newly developed vaccine in clinical trials is facing challenges. Recently the US Food and Drug Administration has revoked the certificate of product registration for an experimental vaccine named Dengvaxia by the French company Sanofi Pasteur. The Dengvaxia vaccine contained immunity providing genes from all four types of viruses; however, the manufacturer ignored the fact that in such circumstances attenuated live virus’s vaccine can lead to severe consequences due to a biological process in the human body known as an antibody-dependent enhancement. This happening reduced the chances for availability of the vaccine to curb dengue fever control in near future. As such, Pakistan, like other parts of the world, must live with this virus infection through preventive and control measures against mosquitoes the main culprit for dengue virus transmission from human to human.

In this article, instead of discussing the pathogenic features of dengue virus, I will focus more on the preventive strategies and mainly for the capital city. Among the most important recommended by the WHO are wiping out the egg-laying places of mosquito through water control, proper covering of water for domestic usage and outdoor in the lawns, using insecticides and fumigating the areas are few to mention in curbing mosquito population. However, none of them can be effective across the border in controlling mosquito in the capital city of Islamabad to declare it dengue free.

Strategically, I am more interested in finding effective measures having definite proof of concept. Here comes another microorganism the ‘Wolbachia bacterium’ that infects mosquitoes and eliminate their capability to transmit viral infection. It is pertinent to mention that dengue transmitting mosquito upon acquiring the virus serve as a reservoir where the virus replicates further and in next bite to human get transmitted. However, the dengue virus cannot replicate in mosquito infected with Wolbachia thus halting its further transmission. Sounds good like gold but is there any precedent for such strategy that could be replicated in the capital city of Islamabad. A success story of Australian experience is worth pursuing. Australian scientists have protected one of their towns named Townsville having a high infestation of dengue causing mosquitoes. Through releasing Wolbachia infected mosquitoes, the city once used to be breeding ground for virus spreading mosquito is dengue free since 2014. Approximately, 187,000 people inhabit this city spreading over an area of 25 square miles. This success story is also working in several other cities of Australia under the auspices of the World Mosquito Program.

Now the next question is that does Pakistan has the capability to execute this program? a million-dollar question should be posed to higher authorities of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan. As a patriot and scientist, I believe that we have more than enough capability to do this; however, our system is not aware of its potentials. On several occasions, I submitted my humble request to the people at the helm of affairs in higher education to generate an inventory of scientific/technology expertise our universities and research institutions possess. However, every time, I received an affirmative commitment without practical implementation. In case we want to save Islamabad, from dengue, at least first develop an inventory of national expertise that we have more than enough in our higher education institutes, plan well, implement it and I can bet on that Islamabad our homeland capital will be declared as dengue free in the coming few years. This strategey will provide peace of mind to the entire nation that our governance machinery is safe from this virus.