Brazil releases genetically modified mosquitoes to combat dengue

Updated: Apr 12, 2014, 04:10 AM IST

Zee Media Bureau/Salome Phelamei

Brasilia: Even as the vector-borne diseases (VBDs) have now become a global public health threat, Brazil has reportedly released the world’s largest ever swarm of genetically modified mosquitoes to combat dengue.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), dengue is the fastest vector-borne disease with 40% of the world`s population at risk. It is also a leading cause of illness and fatality in the South American country.

Genetically modified (GM) in a laboratory with a gene designed to devastate the non-GM Aedes aegypti population and reduce dengue's spread, the newly hatched Aedes aegypti mosquitoes called “Franken-skeeters” were released in Jacobina, a farming town in Bahia state, said the report.

“We need to provide alternatives because the system we have now in Brazil doesn’t work,” Global Post quoted Aldo Malavasi, president of Moscamed, a Brazilian company that’s raising and testing the GM mosquitoes in Jacobina, as saying.

“We have thousands and thousands of cases of dengue and that costs a lot for the country. People are unable to work.”

Last year, Brazil reported 1.4 million cases of dengue, which is endemic in three of the 12 host cities for this summer’s World Cup. The most severe form of the illness, dengue hemorrhagic fever, can lead to shock, coma and death.

WHO reports that there has been a 30-fold increase in dengue cases around the globe during the last 50 years.

Dengue is transmitted by the bite of a mosquito infected with one of the four dengue virus serotypes. It is not transmitted directly from person-to-person and symptoms range from mild fever, to incapacitating high fever, with severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain, and rash.

While there is no vaccine to treat dengue, patients are advised to rest, drink plenty of fluids and reduce the fever using paracetamol. Patients should see a doctor immediately to avoid further complications.

With Agency Inputs