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Pitting mosquitoes against mosquitoes

  • Published at 01:23 pm July 22nd, 2019

Effort to eradicate dengue by pitting sterile mosquitoes against fertile ones declared a success

At a time when scores of people have died of dengue in Dhaka and Manila, while hundreds of others have been suffering from the deadly mosquito-borne disease, Guangzhou has succeeded in fighting the menace by pitting mosquitoes against mosquitoes. 

By releasing millions of specially bred sterile mosquitoes over the past two years, scientists in China have successfully contained the dengue menace in the country's most populous province Guangdong, of which Guangzhou is the capital. 

Renowned journal Nature has just carried an article, “Incompatible and Sterile Insect Techniques Combined Eliminate Mosquitoes,” depicting science's success in eradicating dengue-causing mosquitoes in Guangdong, a province of 100 million people previously known for high rate of dengue prevalence.

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Nature published the article on July 17, as the mastermind behind this project, Xi Zhiyong and his team, declared that their effort to eradicate dengue by pitting sterile mosquitoes against the fertile ones had succeeded. 

Professor Xi, who teaches microbiology at Guangzhou's Sun Yatsen University, on July 19 said that he believed the results of his research would play a major role in pest control and reducing the spread of diseases.

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Xi and his team partnered with some experts from the United States to pilot the study for which a special "mosquito factory" was built in a suburb of Guangzhou a few years ago.

Last year, Xi's team, in collaboration with local disease control and prevention centres, extended the release of male sterile mosquitoes from suburban areas to Guangzhou's old city centres, where dengue fever outbreaks had previously been reported. 

Drones were used to release over a million specially bred mosquitoes in a certain part of the old city.

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The Guangzhou mosquito factory, the largest such facility of its kind in the world, is capable of producing 10 million sterile mosquitoes a week.

Wolbachia, a bacteria, is used to make male mosquitoes sterile.

Research findings have shown the eggs produced by female mosquitoes mating with Wolbachia-infected male counterparts, who are infertile, never hatch, and that helps lead to reduce the mosquito population in the area.

Since 2016, some 200 million sterile mosquitoes have been released in Guangdong.