UN mosquito sterilization technology Against Malaria & Dengue
Using a process called Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) which was developed decades ago to target crop-eating insects in the United States – UN scientists have spent the last ten years adapting it to mosquitoes.
Working with the World Health Organization’s tropical diseases program, researchers have now drawn up guidelines for nations wanting to tackle various disease outbreaks transmitted by the winged insects.
Countries have already started like Italy, Greece, Mauritius, and others are on the point of doing it, for example, the U.S France & Brazil, said Jeremy Bouyer, medical entomologist at the Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food & Agriculture, a joint International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) / Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) initiative.
He added that they already have evidence that SIT is able to reduce the density of mosquitoes very significantly and now it is necessary to prove that it will also impact the transmission of the disease.
While describing the Sterile Insect Technique as an insect birth control method, Bouyer explained that it involves releasing sterile males that will out-compete the wild males in the field & they will induce sterility in the females so that the eggs will not hatch – so that is possible to control the next generation.
And if this is done for long enough, it will be possible to reduce, and in some cases, eliminate the target population of mosquito, he added.
Mr. Bouyer’s team, working with WHO’s tropical diseases program, developed guidelines for nations who want to tackle disease outbreaks transmitted by the mosquitoes.
And highlighting progress in automating and upscaling the mass production of sterile mosquito populations, which can be released from a drone in their 100s of 1000s over communities, he added that the important bottlenecks which were sex sorting & drone release, are now solved so researchers are ready for pilot testing.
Dengue, along with other mosquito-transmitted diseases like malaria, Zika, chikungunya & yellow fever – account for about 17% of all infectious diseases globally, according to the WHO.
The agency is expecting about 110 countries to report dengue cases this year.
On average, WHO registers 3 million cases every year, but they may reach 4 million in 2019, it said.
Florence Fouque, Team leader of the UN-sponsored TDR, the Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, said that it would likely take around 4 years before it is known whether the pilot tests have been successful in reducing disease transmission by mosquitoes.
Sometimes a very low population of mosquito can still transmit disease, so what researchers have to measure is the impact on the people, and this is what the team wants to do because it has never been done until now, she said.
2 major species of mosquitoes are transmitting several diseases, which are viruses, including dengue, zika, chikungunya, yellow fever; but it is only about 2 species, Aedes aegypti & Aedes albopictus.
If successful, the potential health benefits could be enormous, Raman Velayudhan, Coordinator from WHO’s Department of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) said.
Of the current dengue epidemic, he said, many countries in the world have reported an increase, and they have reports from Bangladesh, Brazil, Philippines & a few African countries and almost ten other Latin American countries, dengue has continued to increase.
Highlighting the safety of the irradiation technique, Mr. Bouyer insisted that no test tube manufactured genes known as transgenes were being inserted into mosquitoes.
“The mutations they are creating with this system are random, so it isn’t transgenic, researchers are not putting transgenes into the mosquitoes and they are occurring naturally in the population, he added. It is just that there are enough mutations to create full sterility in what they release. But there is no particular concern with what they release, the mosquitoes are not radioactive, they are just irradiated and thus sterilized.
Editor’s Note: UN mosquito sterilization technology Against Malaria & Dengue, UN mosquito sterilization technology set for global testing, UN Mosquito Sterilization Offers New Opportunity To Control Chikungunya, Dengue & Zika.