IAEA To Provide Nuclear Technique To Bolster Brazil's Fight Against 'Zika' Mosquitoes

By Newsroom America Staff at 25 Feb 2016

(Newsroom America) -- The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has announced plans to facilitate the transfer of a nuclear technique to Brazil to help the country’s battle with the Zika virus by supressing the mosquito populations that transmit the disease.

A cobalt-60 gamma cell irradiator is expected to be transferred to the Brazilian non-profit Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) centre Moscamed in Juazeiro, Bahia, the IAEA announced at an expert meeting in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia.

It could, in a few months, help scale up the production of sterile male mosquitoes to be released in selected areas, and they, once released, mate with wild females who do not produce any offspring, effectively suppressing the insect population over time, experts said, agreeing that SIT was an efficient, safe, environmentally neutral and sustainable method to control mosquito populations and fight vector-borne diseases like Zika and dengue fever.

“Our discussion summarized the current status of all methods that can be used to fight disease-transmitting mosquitoes,” said Marc Vreysen, who heads the insect pest control laboratory at the Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture, a shared office between the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and IAEA.

Moscamed has long experience in applying SIT to fight insect pests, and was one of the first facilities to mass rear sterilized mosquitoes in the world,” said its Director, Jair Virginio.

“The irradiator would allow our facility to produce up to 12 million sterilized male Aedes aegypti mosquitos per week, reaching up to 750 000 people in 15 municipalities in the Brazilian states of Bahia and Pernambuco, which have been particularly hard-hit by Zika.”

The announcement was made as international experts from 12 countries gathered in Brasilia for a two-day meeting to share experiences on the use of SIT as part of a comprehensive approach to control mosquito populations along with other methods, such as site inspections and fumigation.

The meeting, organized in cooperation with Brazilian Ministry of Health, is part of the IAEA’s response to the current Zika outbreak in Central and South America.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika an international public health emergency earlier this month.

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