Fish vs dengue: Experts tap 'kataba' to eat mosquito larvae

Aleta Nieva-Nishimori, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 09 2019 12:36 PM | Updated as of Aug 09 2019 12:54 PM

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MANILA - A fish brought to the Philippines by the Americans during World War 2 is being tapped in the fight against dengue.

According to Dr. Westley Rosario, chief of National Integrated Fisheries Technology Development Center of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), said the Americans introduced the mosquito fish locally known as "Kataba" or "Itar" in the Philippines to prevent their troops from getting sick from malaria, another disease caused by mosquitoes.

"Ngayon lang napansin na importante ito nung meron na tayong epidemic sa buong Pilipinas," Rosario said in an interview on DZMM on Friday.

Rosario said dengue cases in Pangasinan went down to about 32 percent when the kataba was used as biological control agent against mosquitoes. In Dagupan City where the center is located, cases were reduced to about 82-83 percent, he said.

He said this can be replicated in other areas with high number cases of dengue.

"May epekto naman ito kasama siguro yung efforts na ginagawa ng DepEd (Department of Education) at saka ng DOH at LGUs (local government units)," he added.

Rosario said the fish can thrive in areas deemed as inhabitable by other fish and can multiply faster.

"Ito, wala pang dalawang buwan pwede siyang mangitlog at maliit lang siya talaga 4 cms lang. At malakas siyang kumain more than 1 gram per day (mosquito larvae)," he said.

On Tuesday, the government declared a national dengue epidemic amid the rising cases of the mosquito-borne disease in the country.

As of July 20 this year, the Department of Health recorded 146,062 cases of dengue, with 622 deaths. The figure is double from the 73,818 cases recorded during the same period last year.

Kataba are sold in aquarium stores but are also given out free of charge by the center in Dagupan City.

"Ire-request ko yung regional office ng BFAR mag-report din kung meron sa kanila," he said.

He said they will first distribute kataba to schools as schoolchildren are often prone to dengue especially during rainy season.

"Yung mga may gusto agad pwede naman silang pumunta sa center sa Dagupan. Palagi akong meron doon. Ibibigay ko ng libre," he said.

They can also get in touch with him through his website Aquatech ni Doc Westly.