Brazilian Town Fights Zika By Releasing More Mosquitoes

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The fight against Zika continues. A Brazilian town has taken a new approach by releasing more mosquitoes.

Linh Bui explains their method and has new details about the virus.

Concerns are growing about some of the serious complications linked to the virus.

One Brazilian town has taken a very different approach in its battle against Zika: fighting mosquitoes with more mosquitoes—millions more.

“We release 800,000 mosquitoes a week in this neighborhood,” said biologist Cecelia Kosman.

The mosquitoes released are genetically modified to contain a lethal gene. Engineered insects receive an antibiotic while they’re raised in the lab. Then they’re released so they mate in the wild.

Outside the lab, without the antibiotic, they die—and so do their offspring.

“If we fight the mosquito, we are fighting every disease that that mosquito can transmit,” Kosman said.

The Zika virus has spread rapidly. Health authorities in Norway now say two pregnant women tested positive for the virus after traveling in Latin America.

Zika has been linked to birth defects and a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine finds it may also be associated with a deadly type of brain inflammation.

Dr. Peter Hotez, a tropical disease expert, says the species of mosquito that spreads Zika was almost eradicated in the 1970s but has rebounded.

“I think, you know, we can evaluate these new technologies. It’s worth evaluating them at scale but that should not stop efforts right now using traditional methods,” he said.

Key West has applied to the FDA to conduct a test using the very same mosquitoes but some local residents oppose that, saying it’s too soon to understand the environmental impact.

This week, the World Health Organization said pregnant women are “advised not to travel to areas on ongoing Zika virus outbreaks.”

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