Thursday, July 24, 2014

Genetically modified mosquitoes set to be released in Brazil to combat dengue

Justine Alford at IFL Science: ... Mosquitoes kill more people each year than all other animals combined, and on average they kill even more people than humans do. It is estimated that over 1 million people die per year from mosquito-borne diseases, such as Malaria and Dengue Fever, and millions more endure pain and suffering.

Tackling this problem has proved a formidable task in the past, but a very small UK-based company called Oxitec have been developing and implementing an exciting and cost effective technique that could help curb vector-borne diseases in problem areas without the negative environmental impacts that other approaches often bestow. This sustainable technique, which involves the release of “sterile” insects into the wild, has already proved a success story in several dengue mosquito trials in different areas of the world, and can also be applied to control other insect problems such as agricultural pests which risk food security. Furthermore, a factory in Brazil is set to be opened next week in order to raise and release these mosquitoes on a commercial scale in order to tackle Dengue Fever.

Dengue fever is the fastest-growing mosquito-borne disease in the world; incidence has increased 30-fold over the last 50 years, and currently it affects around 50-100 million people each year and causes around 25,000 deaths. It’s a viral disease spread primarily by two species of mosquito; Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopticus, although the former is responsible for the majority of transmissions. Dengue is sometimes nicknamed “breakbone fever” because of the agonizing bone pain associated with the illness, and severe cases may result in the often fatal manifestation dengue hemorrhagic fever. Currently there are no vaccines or effective antiviral drugs, meaning that mosquito control is the only viable option to control the disease....

A mosquito, photographed by ProjectManhattan , Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons 3.0 license

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