WHO advisors advocate genetically modified mosquitoes to fight Zika

Genetically modified mosquitos should be used to control the Zika virus in closely monitored pilot programmes, leading scientists advising the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday.

The WHO, which has declared the Zika outbreak in Latin America a global health emergency, has been focusing on mosquito control because the insects are the main transmitters of the virus.

It is highly likely the virus has been causing rising numbers of birth defects in babies as well as cases of Guillain-Barré muscle weakness in adults.

The WHO's group of advisors recommended the pilot deployment of a strain of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that have been genetically engineered to produce offspring that die before reaching adulthood.

The OX513A strain was developed by the British firm Oxitec, which is already conducting field trials in Brazil and Panama, according to its website.

The expert advisors noted that small field trials showed a decrease in mosquito populations. However, they also pointed out that there was no proof yet that this method will curb the spread of the actual disease.

In addition to genetic engineering, the advisors also recommended pilot projects involving mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia bacteria, which reduces their ability to transmit several viruses including Zika.

The advisory group, whose recommendations the WHO usually heeds, said further research was needed on several other novel mosquito-reduction techniques that involve sterilizing them with radiation, trapping them, or baiting them with insecticide.

In addition, they promoted traditional methods of insecticide spraying, removing wet breeding grounds for insects and personal protection with light-coloured clothing.

Last update: Fri, 18/03/2016 - 19:41

More from World

Reports: Wife of Orlando gay nightclub shooter arrested in California

The wife of the man who killed 49 people in a gay nightclub in Florida in June has been arrested, according to news...

Five killed in shooting in Mexico after music festival

A shooting early Monday at a Mexican beach disco where people had gathered at the end of a music festival killed...

Four Turkish police officers killed by blast in south-east

A blast killed four Turkish police officers in the south-eastern city of Diyarbakir on Monday, the state-run Anadolu...

Trump's 'obsolete' NATO comments rattle EU foreign ministers

US president-elect Donald Trump's criticism of NATO has been met with "concern" by the military alliance's top...

Burundi to withdraw AU troops from Somalia over salaries unpaid by EU

Burundi will withdraw its 5,400 troops serving as part of an African Union contingent in Somalia because the...