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Sterilize mosquitoes to fight disease? UN tries to bet

AFP, published Thursday, November 14, 2019 at 10:43 pm

The UN said on Thursday it would consider whether it was possible to fight diseases such as dengue or zika by reducing the number of mosquitoes in the world by tracking and sterilizing males.

The World Health Organization (WHO) report is clear: Mosquitoes are among the most dangerous animals by the number of deaths they cause in the world. Zika, dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever infections are four diseases transmitted to humans by the same species of mosquito called Aedes aegypti.

Insect population suppression – according to the so-called sterile insect technique (TIS) – is a method used in agriculture for over fifty years to control pests. It involves the spread of laboratory-grown insects and sterilized by irradiation.

Sterile male mosquitoes may mate but not reproduce. Tests have already shown that this technique can reduce the mosquito population, but scientists still do not know if it can affect the transmission of disease.

Applying this technique to try to limit the transmission of the disease "can be really significant," said Florence Fouque, who works for the UN Special Program for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR).

TDR, in association with WHO, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations Food Organization and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, has developed a pilot program for countries interested in using the sterilization technique. of mosquitoes.

Selected countries should be known by early 2020 and testing should last several years, Fouque said at a press conference in Geneva.

According to 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 accounted for 435,000 deaths. The global incidence of dengue has increased dramatically in recent decades. About half of the world's population is at risk.

About 3 million cases of dengue are reported each year in more than 100 countries, representing only 20% of actual cases, said Raman Velayudhan, coordinator of the WHO Department of Neglected Tropical Diseases.

WHO expects the use of the mosquito sterilization technique to reduce the number of dengue cases by at least 25% between 2025 and 2030, he said.

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