Novel trial wipes out 80% of harmful mosquitoes

Desiree Burns
July 12, 2018

A team of scientists with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and James Cook University (JCU) successfully reduced the population of the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, carriers of the diseases, by 80 percent in a test region thanks to a program at JCU that infected male mosquitos with bacteria that renders them sterile.

Scientists in Australia have managed to wipe out more than 80 percent of disease-spreading mosquitoes in an experiment conducted in the northeastern state of Queensland.

The experiments were done by researchers from Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and James Cook University (JCU) and specifically targeted Aedes aegypti mosquitoes - which are responsible for spreading risky diseases such as dengue fever, chikungunya and Zika.

The sterile insect technique has been used before but the challenge in making it work for mosquitoes is being able to rear enough of them, identify males, remove biting females and release them in large numbers to suppress a population.

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"The invasive Aedes aegypti mosquito is one of the world's most unsafe pests", said CSIRO Director of Health and Biosecurity Rob Grenfell in a statement, describing the experiment as a victory.

A team of Australian researchers is making serious strides in the global campaign to prevent spread of the unsafe diseases like dengue fever and Zika.

"Although the majority of mosquitoes don't spread diseases, the three mostly deadly types - the Aedes, Anopheles and Culex - are found nearly all over the world and are responsible for around (17%) of infectious disease transmissions globally", Grenfell explained. And because males don't bite (they prefer to chomp on plant nectar), there was no risk they would spread disease.

The scientists say that the experiment offers new hope in the fight against the spread of deadly viruses such as dengue and Zika virus. Take the Aedes aegypti, also known as the yellow fever mosquito, as an example.

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