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Sterilize mosquitoes to fight disease? The UN is trying to bet



AFP, announced on Thursday, November 14, 2019 at 22:43 pm

The UN said on Thursday it would consider whether it could fight diseases such as dengue fever or Zika by reducing the number of mosquitoes in the world by monitoring and sterilizing males.

The World Health Organization (WHO) report is clear: mosquitoes are among the most dangerous animals in the world due to the number of deaths. Virus infection Zika, dengue, zirconia and yellow fever are four diseases that are transmitted to people of the same mosquito species called Aedes ae Egypti.

Suppression of the insect population – by the so-called sterile insect technique (TIS) – has been a method used in agriculture for more than fifty years to control pests. It involves dissemination of insects grown in the laboratory and rendered sterile by radiation.

Sterilized male mosquitoes can mate but not grow. Tests have already shown that this technique can reduce mosquito populations, but scientists still do not know if it can affect disease transmission.

Applying this technique to try to limit disease transmission "could be really important," said Florence Schooke, who works for the UN's Special Tropical Disease Research and Training (TDR) program.

TDR, in cooperation with WHO, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, has developed a pilot program for countries interested in using mosquito sterilization techniques.

Selected countries should be known by the beginning of 2020 and the tests should last several years, Ms Schooke said at a press conference in Geneva.

According to the WHO, the ability of mosquitoes to carry diseases and transmit them to humans results in hundreds of thousands of deaths each year.

In 2017 alone, malaria alone was responsible for 435,000 deaths. The global incidence of dengue fever has increased dramatically in recent decades. About half of the world's population is at risk.

About three million cases of dengue are reported each year in more than 100 countries, a figure that represents only 20% of real cases, said Raman Velayuhan, co-ordinator of the WHO's Department of Neglected Tropical Diseases.

The WHO hopes that using the mosquito sterilization technique will reduce the number of dengue cases by at least 25% between 2025 and 2030, he said.


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