China's 'mosquito factory' aims to wipe out Zika, other disease

August 2nd, 2016  |  Source: Reuters

Every week, scientists in southern China release 3 million bacteria-infected mosquitoes on a 3 km (two-mile) long island in a bid to wipe out diseases such as dengue, yellow fever and Zika.

The scientists inject mosquito eggs with wolbachia bacteria in a laboratory, then release infected male mosquitoes on the island on the outskirts of the city of Guangzhou.

The bacteria, which occurs naturally in about 28 percent of wild mosquitoes, causes infected males to sterilize the females they mate with.

"The aim is trying to suppress the mosquito density below the threshold which can cause disease transmission," said Zhiyong Xi, who is director of the Sun Yat-sen University Centre of Vector Control for Tropical Diseases and pioneered the idea.

"There are hot spots," Xi said. "This technology can be used at the beginning to target the hot spots ... it will dramatically reduce disease transmission."

Mosquito-borne diseases are responsible for more than one million deaths worldwide every year and Zika has become a concern for athletes at this year's Olympic Games, which open in Rio de Janeiro on Friday.

Some athletes, including the top four ranked male golfers, have declined to take part.

An outbreak of the Zika virus in Brazil last year has spread through the Americas and beyond, with China confirming its first case in February.

U.S. health officials have concluded that Zika infections in pregnant women can cause microcephaly, a birth defect marked by small head size that can lead to severe developmental problems in babies.

The World Health Organization has said there is strong scientific consensus that Zika can also cause Guillain-Barre, a rare neurological syndrome that causes temporary paralysis in adults.




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