Transgenic mosquito ready to join Brazil's war on Zika virus

martes 19 de enero de 2016 19:54 GYT

By Anthony Boadle

BRASILIA Jan 19 (Reuters) - A genetically modified mosquito has helped reduce the proliferation of mosquitoes spreading Zika and other dangerous viruses in Brazil, its developers said on Tuesday.

The self-limiting strain of the Aedes aegypti mosquito was developed by Oxitec, the U.K.-subsidiary of U.S. synthetic biology company Intrexon. The male mosquitoes are modified so their offspring will die before reaching adulthood and being able to reproduce.

Oxitec, which produces the mosquitoes in Campinas, announced it will build a second facility in nearby Piracicaba, Sao Paulo state, following strong results there in controlling the population of the Aedes vector that also carries the dengue virus.

Zika virus, first detected in Africa in the 1940's, was unknown in the Americas until last year when it appeared in northeastern Brazil. The virus has quickly spread through Latin America.

Brazilian health authorities have linked the Zika outbreak to a surge in the number of babies born with unusually small heads, a damaging neurological condition called microcephaly.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel advisory last week warning pregnant women to avoid 14 countries and territories in the Caribbean and Latin America affected by the virus.

With Brazil's rainy season underway, authorities are scrambling to fight the seasonal surge in mosquito populations.

Two weeks ahead of Carnival celebrations, a highlight of Brazil's tourism calendar, officials want to stem international concern about the virus. They also want to reassure travelers who plan to attend the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.   Continuación...