September 16, 2005

Gulp! Indian state fights dengue with fish

KOLKATA, India (Reuters) - Indian health authorities are
using colorful aquarium fish with a taste for mosquito larve to
fight a dengue epidemic that has left dozens dead, health
officials said on Friday.

Dengue, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, has killed
about 50 people and affected hundreds in the past few weeks in
the eastern state of West Bengal where authorities are
struggling to control the disease.

Health officials have released thousands of gambusia and
guppies -- small, brightly colored freshwater fish popular in
home aquariums -- in ponds, lakes, wells and stagnant water
where mosquitoes breed.

"Guppies eat mosquito larvae and help in checking the
breeding rate of mosquitoes. These fish are being used
successfully to fight dengue," said Prabhakar Chatterjee, West
Bengal's medical services chief.

Dengue is marked by high fever, headache, rash and nausea,
and if not treated in time can lead to death.

Health volunteers, medical students and voluntary
organizations are distributing the fish.

"Gambusia is a cheap and easily available fish that can eat
daily its own weight in mosquito larvae or pupae," said Amiya
Hati, an expert in mosquito-borne diseases.

Authorities are encouraging the use of gambusia fish
because mosquitoes have become resistant to many pesticides,
such as DDT.