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Scientists deploy genetically modified mosquitoes to fight Zika

Scientists deploy genetically modified mosquitoes to fight Zika

Scientists have found that Zika virus could affect 20 per cent of infected pregnant women’s babies even as they have deployed Genetically Modified (GM) mosquitoes to help fight disease by shortening its lifespan.

Also, the disease has been linked with microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome and scientists from United States (U.S.), France, Brazil, India, and Austria are working on 23 vaccine-development projects.

Microcephaly is abnormal smallness of the head, a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development while Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rapid-onset muscle weakness caused by the immune system damaging the peripheral nervous system.

Assistant Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Marie-Paule Kieny, at a Zika conference in Paris, France, where 600 disease experts from 43 nations met over the weekend to analyse data on the outbreak, said: “As seasonal temperatures begin to rise in Europe, two species of Aedes mosquito which we know transmit the virus will begin to circulate.“The mosquito knows no borders.”

Kieny, in a report published by DailyMailUK said: “There is also a risk men infected with Zika could pass the disease on to women via sex, and the world could see a marked increase in the number of people with Zika and related complications.”

An obstetrician and foetal medicine specialist, Dr. Renato Sa, said he believes babies in up to a fifth of pregnant women with the virus could be affected.“The expectation is that a woman who has had Zika has a one per cent chance of having a baby with microcephaly,” he told the BBC.

“But if we consider a range of other possible neurological conditions, that figure rises to about 20 per cent.” Meanwhile, millions of mutant or rather Genetically Modified (GM) mosquitoes are poised to be taken from the United Kingdom (UK) and released in Florida, United States (U.S.) in the fight against Zika virus.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads the disease, has been genetically modified by a British biotech company to pass on a ‘killer’ gene.
This shortens the life of their young, which should make the population crash and halt the spread of Zika.Trials in Brazil have shown mosquito numbers to fall by 90 per cent, an ‘unprecedented level of control’.

Florida, United States (U.S.), has been identified as one of the most likely places for the disease to gain a foothold, and, with no treatments for Zika available; regulators have provisionally approved the release of GM mosquitoes.

A bio scientist with Oxitec, an Oxford University spin-out company, Derric Nimmo, told the Sunday Times: “We would expect to release about 3.3million mosquitoes over nine months – just over 200,000 a week.“We know this technology works very well. It’s a matter of scaling up and drawing up a release strategy.”

The plans have come up against opposition, with some Key West residents saying the mutant bugs carry unknown risks to the environment and to humans, and their release could deter tourists.

But Dr. Amesh Adalja, of the University of Pittsburgh, said: “The fight against mosquito-borne diseases has been going on for over a century.

“Genetically-modified mosquitoes are potentially path-breaking tool that will improve human life.”

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