SEATTLE — The Dengue virus in Brazil has been an epidemic since its resurfacing in 1981. In 2015 alone, 1.6 million cases of mosquito-borne dengue virus were registered. Thankfully, scientists have recently made a breakthrough.
One year ago, U.K. company Oxitec created a genetically modified mosquito and released it into the city of Piracicaba it has been a big success. Oxitec has been working on the genetically modified insect for ten years.The Friendly™ Aedes was released in Piracicaba on April 30th, 2015, and in one year has reduced Dengue fever cases by 91 percent in areas and 52 percent across Piracicaba.
The district of CECAP/Eldorado consisting of 5,000 residents reported 133 cases of Dengue last year, after a year of the Friendly Aedes only 12 cases were reported. The genetically modified male mosquito has reduced the number of wild Aedes aegypti larvae by 82 percent in the treated area.
The Friendly Aedes was designed in order to overpower the wild population of Aedes aegypti and it accomplishes this by only releasing Friendly Aedes males. These genetically modified males do not bite nor do they transmit diseases like Dengue, Chikungunya or the Zika virus.Zika virus.
When the Friendly Aede males are released, they mate with wild females and their offspring inherit a “self-limiting gene” that kills them before they can reach adulthood. The offspring also inherits a fluorescent marker that allows them to be easily identified in the laboratory. The Friendly Aedes mosquitoes also die along with their offspring, leaving very little ecological footprint and preventing an invasion of the environment.
Brazil has long wrestled with the Dengue virus and it has now triumphed. Oxitec has provided a solution to rid Brazil of one of its worst health issues. In order to cover the entire city of Piracicaba with the Friendly Aedes, it would cost around $2.7 million a year.
This technology is going to rewrite not only the narrative for the Dengue virus in Brazil but all mosquito-borne diseases that could blossom into future epidemics like Zika and Chikungunya anywhere in the world.
– Mariana Camacho López