9 November 2017

Castrated insects to stop tropical diseases

This news is redirected and translated by The Secretariat for Development Cooperation at SCIENCE from Verdens Bedste Nyheder.

A new laboratory is established to help countries worldwide to send castrated insects out on their wings in order to fight diseases as zika and malaria.

Many serious tropical diseases are transmitted by insects, so if you fight the insects, you will also end the disease. But to bomb large areas with insecticide to get rid of the mosquitoes spreading malaria or zika-virus for example can have major environmental and health implications, and the mosquitoes will quickly grow resistant to insect toxin anyway.

A new laboratory, which the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently has opened in Austria, is to help countries worldwide using a different and more gentle method to get rid of pests. The new laboratory is an extension of the existing IPCL-laboratory working with insecticide.

"IPLC will with the new and modern facilities be able to do even more to help Member States to control harmful insects that threaten our crops, our  livestock and our health in the future," said IAEA director general Yukiya Amano, at the opening ceremony.

The method is based on breeding large male swarms of those mosquitoes or flies which spread the disease. Here after the insects get irradiated making them unable to get offsprings.

When you then release them in an area affected by the disease, they mate with the she-insects of the area, but without the result of offsprings. As a result there will
be fewer and fewer of the harmfull insects, and the pests can eventually vanish

The method is not new but has in the past mostly been used to combat insects that attack food. Zanzibar and Senegal have, however, been successful in combating the tsetse fly, which spreads the deadly sleeping sickness. Earlier this year the Dominican Republic used the sterile insect method to eliminate the Mediterranean fruit fly, which according to the Agricultural Agency is the worst pest of fruit in the world.