Oxford, UK, 3rd March 2015
Named the “Friendly Aedes aegypti”, the genetically modified mosquito aims to reduce the number of wild insects in the treated area.
Oxitec do Brasil and the City of Piracicaba announce today a project to fight the mosquito that transmits dengue fever and chikungunya. A first, the work will use the OX513A Aedes aegypti mosquito – a genetically modified strain of Aedes aegypti produced by Oxitec do Brasil – and aims to reduce significantly the quantity of the dengue and chikungunya mosquito in the treated area.
“We are delighted with this partnership with the City of Piracicaba, which clearly recognises the importance of working with our solution to fight the dengue and chikungunya mosquito. This is our first project since the CTNBio approval and our first project directly in partnership with a municipality. In this new phase, we will invest in collecting further data about the benefits achieved by controlling the main mosquito that transmits dengue to become even better prepared for the potential commercial registration of our product. In this way, we can also continue to optimise the implementation of the solution and build further on our learning from the work undertaken over many years in collaboration with the University of São Paulo (USP) and Moscamed”, said Glen Slade, Head of Business Development and responsible for Oxitec do Brasil.
The municipal Secretary of Health, Pedro Mello, believes that the Oxitec solution can help a lot in the fight against Aedes aegypti, the main vector that transmits dengue. “We always seek to be alert to new solutions in the fight against this disease that has caused such harm to the population of Piracicaba and all of Brazil. With the arrival of chikungunya, also transmitted by Aedes aegypti, it is even more urgent to have at hand all the technologies available to fight it”, he said.
According to the Mayor Gabriel Ferrato, use of the Oxitec solution will bring enormous benefits for all those who struggle daily against the mosquito that transmits dengue and chikungunya. “The use of this solution as a pilot in our city affirms the innovative DNA of Piracicaba, which across many years has shown its pioneering spirit in various areas of knowledge and been recognised particularly in areas related to health”, said the Mayor.
The solution will first be deployed in an area of 54 hectares, equivalent to over 65 football pitches, in Cecap – the neighbourhood in the East region of the city that has reported the highest number of dengue cases since the beginning of 2015. Around five thousand people live in the area.
The work will begin by informing the community about the solution. “Health agents of the City and Oxitec technicians will visit the residents in the area where the mosquitoes will be released to explain how their use can reduce the number of dengue and chikungunya mosquitoes. We have also created various audiovisual materials to explain how the project works. The support we received from the Secretary of Health was fundamental to this work”, said Guilherme Trivellato, the project manager. And added “I always like to emphasise that our mosquitoes, which we call ‘Friendly Aedes aegypti‘, do not bite and do not transmit diseases”.
The first release of the ‘Friendly Aedes aegypti‘ is planned for April. “Our expectation is that, after 4 to 6 months of releases, the population of the mosquito that transmits dengue and chikungunya will have already fallen significantly in the treated area, in comparison with untreated areas”, said Trivellato
About dengue fever and chikungunya
Dengue is a debilitating disease spread by the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, with Aedes aegypti being the primary vector in the Americas and hence the priority for control. Dengue causes a range of severe flu-like symptoms, and is sometimes in extreme cases, fatal. Dengue is estimated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to affect 50-100 million people a year; a recent publication in Nature estimated the actual number of infections to be 390 million. Dengue incidence is increasing rapidly around the world and there is currently no vaccine or specific medication.
According to the WHO, at present the only way to combat dengue is to control the mosquitoes that spread the disease.
Chikungunya is a different virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. In late 2013, the first local transmission of chikungunya virus in the Americas was identified in Caribbean countries. The USA Centre for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that there have since been more than one million cases in the Americas. Chikungunya can cause severe muscle pain and cramps, and over 10% of people can develop persistent arthralgia for a number of years after acute infection. Like dengue it can only be transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito.
About Oxitec do Brasil
Oxitec do Brasil is a subsidiary of Oxitec Limited, a pioneer in using genetic engineering to control insects that spread disease and damage crops, founded in 2002 as a spin out from Oxford University (UK). Oxitec do Brasil has a production unit in Campinas, in the state of São Paulo, with an initial production capacity of 2 million ‘Friendly Aedes aegypti’ per week.
The technology developed by Oxitec produces genetically modified insects, whose males can mate with wild females to produce offspring that die before adulthood. This technology is an evolution of the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), which has been used successfully for more than 50 years. SIT uses irradiation to sterilise male insects to control or even eliminate pest insect populations.
Oxitec’s first products are for the control of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito species primarily responsible for transmitting dengue fever and chikungunya, and Mediterranean fruit fly, one of the world’s most damaging agricultural pests.
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