Science & Environment

GM mosquito expansion announced

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are seen in containers at a lab of the Institute of Biomedical Sciences of the Sao Paulo University, on January 8, 2016 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are the transmitters of three viruses

A company producing GM mosquitoes says it is to open a new factory in Brazil as it expand its 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."

Pregnancy alert

Dengue fever, Chikungunya virus and Zika virus are spread by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito.

Zika has been linked with birth defects in Brazil in babies of mothers infected with the virus.

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert last Friday advising pregnant women to avoid travelling to Brazil and other Latin American and Caribbean countries where outbreaks of Zika have been registered.

The travel alert applies to Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela and Puerto Rico.

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