Scientists have announced a $18 million plan to release mosquitoes resistant to Zika in urban areas of Colombia and Brazil. Previous trials in Rio de Janeiro have proven successful to fight dengue.
CCTV’s Lucrecia Franco reports the story.
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A swarm of Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes–the species that transmits dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya and Zika, have been modified to carry a bacteria called Wolbachia pipientis, which inhibits their ability to spread the viruses. Scientist released these “good mosquitoes” in Brazil as part of a successful international program called “Eliminate Dengue.”
Dr. Luciano Moreira, from Brazil’s Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, introduced the method to Brazil. He is the senior author of a study that shows that the bacteria also make the mosquitoes incapable of transmitting Zika.
“We had access to mosquitoes with Zika tested. If Wolbachia could block the Zika virus and the results were positive, mosquitoes with Wolbachia do block the Zika virus,” said Dr. Moreira.
In the city Niteroi, to the north of Rio, a trial was carried out in 2015. Thousands of mosquitoes with the Wolbachia bacteria were released and now 80 percent of the mosquito population is harmless.
The plan is to release a swarm of these “good mosquitoes,” early next year. Scientists expect them to help win a global public health battle, mainly against the Zika virus, which, according to the WHO, has now spread to 73 countries.