World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced plans to test a mosquito sterilisation technique aimed at containing the spread of diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and Zika.
The Sterile Insect Technique, a form of “birth control” for mosquitoes and other deadly insects, has been used to tackle invasive pests in the past. It was first developed by the United States Department of Agriculture and has been used successfully to target insects that attack crops and livestock, especially the Mediterranean fruit fly and the New World screwworm fly. It is now being used across the world to boost agriculture.
The UN health agency said it had recently observed that the technique could prove successful in controlling some species of mosquito from spreading diseases amongst humans.
“The process involves rearing large quantities of sterilised male mosquitoes in dedicated facilities, and then releasing them to mate with females in the wild. As they do not produce any offspring, the insect population declines over time” WHO said in the November 14 announcement.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have partnered with WHO to develop a pilot programme for countries interested in using the technique to test the impact on disease transmission.
Malaria, dengue, Zika, chikungunya and other related fevers account for about 17 per cent of all infectious diseases globally, WHO said, claiming more than 700,000 lives yearly with far greater number suffering infections.
WHO said it has become necessary to find a lasting solution to reducing or eradicating mosquitoes as disease vendors as half of the world population is at risk of dengue. “Half the world’s population is now at risk of dengue,” Soumya Swaminathan, WHO chief scientist, said during the announcement. “And despite our best efforts, current efforts to control it are falling short.” “We desperately need new approaches and this initiative is both promising and exciting,” the official added.