from the arklay-laboratory dept.
A company that creates genetically-modified mosquitoes will open a new factory in Brazil as it expands operations:
Small-scale studies in parts of Brazil, Panama and the Cayman Islands suggest engineered sterile mosquitoes can reduce wild insect populations by more than 90% when released into the wild. Intrexon said the facility in Piraciciba, São Paulo, will be able to protect 300,000 people.
Aedes aegypti mosquitoes carry three viruses - Dengue, Zika and Chikungunya.
The studies were carried out by the only company currently trialling GM insects, Oxitec, based in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. Oxitec, which was spun out from the University of Oxford, was bought by US company Intrexon for $160m (£106m) in August last year. Oxitec CEO Hadyn Parry said: "As the principal source for the fastest growing vector-borne infection in the world in Dengue fever, as well as the increasingly challenging Zika virus, controlling the Aedes aegypti population provides the best defence against these serious diseases for which there are no cures."
Also at The Guardian.
The FDA has completed the environmental review for a proposed field trial to determine whether the release of Oxitec Ltd.'s genetically engineered (GE) mosquitoes (OX513A) will suppress the local Aedes aegypti mosquito population in the release area at Key Haven, Florida. After considering thousands of public comments, the FDA has published a final environmental assessment (EA) and finding of no significant impact (FONSI) that agrees with the EA's conclusion that the proposed field trial will not have significant impacts on the environment.
[The genetically engineered mosquitoes possess a] self-limiting gene that prevents the offspring from surviving. Male modified mosquitoes, which do not bite or spread disease, are released to mate with the pest females. Their offspring inherit the self-limiting gene and die before reaching adulthood—before they can reproduce or spread disease.
[Release of the OX513A mosquitoes in both Brazil and the Cayman Islands] strongly suppressed the target wild population—by 80–95%
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued a travel alert for 14 nations affected by the mosquito-borne Zika virus. One of those nations, El Salvador, is recommending against pregnancy due to a risk of birth defects suspected to be caused by the virus:
The entire region has erupted with concern over the virus, and each country has taken measures to combat its spread. Other Latin American countries, such as Colombia and Ecuador, as well as Jamaica in the Caribbean, have recommended delaying pregnancies, though not for an entire two years.
The rest of Latin America has responded with different tactics, ranging from widespread fumigation efforts to directing citizens not to be bitten by the Aedes mosquito, which is known to carry yellow, chikungunya and dengue fevers.
So far, the hardest hit nation in the region has been Brazil, where more than a million cases have been confirmed, including nearly 4,000 cases of microcephaly in newborns that could be linked to Zika. Microcephaly is a rare, incurable condition in which an infant's head is abnormally small.
Brazil has announced its plans to control the Zika virus while continuing to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro:
Inspections of Olympic facilities will begin four months before the Games to get rid of mosquito breeding grounds. Daily sweeps will also take place during the Games. But fumigation would only be an option on a case-by-case basis because of concerns for the health of the athletes and visitors.
The Brazilian health ministry says it is also banking on the fact that the Games are taking place in the cooler, drier month of August when mosquitoes are far less evident and there are considerably fewer cases of mosquito-borne viruses.
The World Health Organization warns that Zika is likely to spread across all of the Americas.