In 2015, there has been a noticeable increase in Zika virus infections in the South American country of Brazil. There have been 3530 recorded instances of Zika cases last year - a whopping increase from less than 200 infected residents in previous five years. While Zika is not a fatal disease, the sudden rise in affected Brazilians have also seemingly affected the number of babies born with the microcephaly.
The correlation between Zika and microcephaly has yet to be thoroughly explored. However, the disease has already reached the U.S. having been discovered in Florida and Illinois. Thankfully there has been a recent significant development in the efforts to eradicate the source of the disease - the aedes aegypti mosquito.
Last Tuesday, Oxitec, a U.K. subsidiary of Intrexon, announced the newest technology that is aimed to combat the spread of aedes aegypti. The company unveiled the results of their study conducted in April last year which unleashed genetically modified sterile mosquitoes in the city of Piracicaba.
The batch of mosquitoes are entirely male - since only female mosquitoes transmit the Zika disease to human beings. They have been modified to produce offspring that would die upon birth. Based on their research, the efforts has resulted in a drop of aedes aegypti mosquito larvae by 82%.
Because of the success of the study, the city of Priacicaba has expressed their support for Oxitec's expansion of the "Friendly Aedes Aegypti Project."
"We decided to extend the project in CECAP/Eldorado district for another year and also signed a record of intent to expand the project to the central area of Piracicaba. This will bring to the city a new Oxitec factory to meet demand for years to come and help protect the public's health with this clean and innovative technology" quipped Gabriel Ferrato, Mayor of Piracicaba.