Scientists are to release mosquitoes in Colombia and Brazil carrying a bacteria which could "significantly reduce" the insects' ability to transmit viruses like Zika to humans.
Small-scale trials over several years showed the technique was effective against Zika and dengue prompting donors, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to finance scaled-up trials.
The tests revolve around the Wolbachia genus of bacteria, which has been shown to hamper the spread of viruses when it's carried by mosquitoes. In Brazil, the scheme will be introduced into areas of Rio de Janeiro from now until February. And these, because of the bacteria may not longer deliver viruses.
The bacteria doesn't yet occur in Aedes aegypti, the tropical mosquitoes primarily responsible for spreading viruses like Zika, but researchers hope that by making it happen they'll derail the disease's transmission. But he is also suspected, when he touches a pregnant woman, to cause serious birth defects of the fetus, microcephaly (head circumference reduction, harmful to the intellectual development). The mosquitoes will mate with the local insects and spreadthroughout wild populations.
"It is a testament to our community engagement teams working really closely with communities to answer questions that all the communities we work with are fully supportive", explained Professor Scott O'Neill from the Eliminate Dengue Program.
Scientists will evaluate the impact the program has on human health for the next two to three years.
"It's affordable, sustainable, and appears to provide protection against Zika, dengue, and a host of other viruses", he said in a statement.
PIRACICABA, Brazil Oct 26 Intrexon Corp's launch on Wednesday of a laboratory in Brazil capable of producing 60 million genetically-modified mosquitoes a week could help protect up to 3 million locals from mosquito-borne diseases like Zika and dengue, the company said.
"We want to make our Friendly Aedes available to the maximum number of countries possible", Oxitec Chief Executive Officer Hadyn Parry said at the inauguration of the plant.
To find out more read the Eliminate Dengue press release. One was that the mosquitoes might harm them in some way or that there might be some unintended consequences.
Australian scientists have found a low-priced way to introduce Wolbachia into dengue-causing mosquitoes in the laboratory, stopping the virus from growing inside the mosquito and thus spreading.
"And in the six years we have been doing these trials there have been no problems".