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Zika: Brazil To Sterilize Mosquitoes With Gamma Rays

The Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that can spread Zika are native to Florida.

Brazilian officials plan to use gamma radiation to sterilize mosquitoes and cut down on transmission of the virus.

That’s according to a fascinating story in Reuters: 

Called an irradiator, the device has been used to control fruit flies on the Portuguese island of Madeira. The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Monday it will pay to ship the device to Juazeiro, in the northeastern state of Bahia, as soon as the Brazilian government issues an import permit.

“It’s a birth control method, the equivalent of family planning for humans,” said Kostas Bourtzis, a molecular biologist with the IAEA’s insect pest control laboratory.

This is similar to an experiment being considered in the Florida Keys where genetically modified mosquitoes would be released. In that case, the mosquito larvae laid after mating with a GMO mosquito don’t live to adulthood.

Researchers are zeroing in on the Aedes aegypti mosquito as a means to control the spread of Zika, dengue fever and chickungunya virus. All three are spread by the same mosquitoes, which can live year-round in Florida and love to bite humans.

When I last spoke with Dr. Christoper Hunter with Orange County about this, he pointed out one issue with tactics like this: geography. Using GMO mosquitoes to lower the mosquito population on an island is one thing; it’s much harder and has to be much more coordinated inland.

“Say our county decided to do it, but if the neighboring four counties didn’t, obviously the mosquitos don’t follow county lines,” Hunter said.

Florida is now up to 29 Zika cases, including the most recent case in Seminole County.

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Abe Aboraya

About Abe Aboraya

Health Reporter

Abe Aboraya started writing for newspapers in High School. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe ... Read Full Bio »