Bacteria-infected mosquitoes to fight Zika virus in China

Zika virus is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and chikungunya.

Last Updated: Feb 15, 2016, 16:24 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau

Beijing: Even as Zika-linked microcephaly cases continue to rise in Brazil, forcing the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a public health emergency, China is all set to begin a pilot field study using mosquitoes infected with bacteria to help fight the deadly disease.

 

According to Xi Zhiyong, a microbiology professor at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, millions of laboratory-produced Aedes aegypti mosquitoes infected with the Wolbachia bacteria will be released at two or three trial sites.

He said the move is aimed at reducing the local mosquito population, which could transmit the Zika virus to humans.

Xi, who heads the study, claimed that using the same technique, last year the team lowered the mosquito population by 90 percent during a trial and helped to contain a local outbreak of dengue fever.

 

In the process, researchers only release male mosquitoes, which don't bite. And the eggs produced by female mosquitoes mating with Wolbachia-infected males are infertile, which they said had reduced mosquito populations.

Zika virus is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and chikungunya.

Symptoms include - fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes), muscle pain and headache. Till date, there is no vaccine or medication to treat the deadly virus.

The team plans to launch the field work sometime around March.

The Zika virus, which has been linked to microcephaly, a severe birth defects in thousands of babies in Brazil, is spreading rapidly in the Americas.