Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 7 December 2019

UN will sterilise male mosquitoes in bid to halt disease spread

Partnership will try to establish if dengue and Zika can be limited

The Zika virus is now being transmitted by the tiger mosquito. 
The Zika virus is now being transmitted by the tiger mosquito. 

The UN is to test a sterilisation method on male mosquitoes to evaluate if it can curtail the spread of devastating pest-borne diseases such as dengue and Zika.

A form of birth control called the sterile insect technique has been used for decades to control crop-killing pests such as fruit flies and moths.

It is now to be used on mosquitoes to try to halt the spread of diseases to humans, said Florence Fouque, a scientist at the UN's programme for research and training in tropical diseases.

The programme is in partnership with the World Health Organisation, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

The UN will develop a pilot scheme for countries interested in using the technique on mosquitoes.

“It could be really, really significant,” Ms Fouque said.

She said several countries were being evaluated and that those taking part should be chosen in early 2020 for tests lasting several years.

The technique works by releasing male mosquitoes sterilised by radiation into the environment to mate with wild females. Over time, the mosquito population decreases as the females fail to reproduce.

The mosquitoes involved are particularly difficult species to control in the Aedes family, including the Asian tiger mosquito.

They are a responsible for diseases including Zika, dengue fever and chikungunya.

Tests have shown the technique can significantly reduce populations.

Dengue fever in recent years has become a threat to about half of the world's population.

Raman Velayudhan, of the UN health agency's neglected tropical diseases division, said in Geneva that three million cases of dengue are reported from 110 countries each year.

Updated: November 15, 2019 12:44 AM

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