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Mutant mosquitoes to be deployed to stop Zika outbreak in Brazil

Genetically modified male mosquitoes were released in parts of Piracicaba city in Southern Brazil as a pilot project in April 2014. Studies have shown that these GM mosquitoes have reduced the wild mosquito population by 82% in areas covered under the pilot project.

The city now plans to expand the program to other neighborhoods. Oxitec, a company that breeds genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes, is opening a factory in Piracicaba to produce millions of genetically modified mosquitoes after getting approval from Brazil’s National Biosafety Committee for releases throughout the country.

City mayor Gabriel Ferrato said:

The city of Piracicaba has always sought innovative solutions to serious problems. In the case of Aedes aegypti, we looked for the tool that seemed most appropriate to help in the tough battle against this mosquito that transmits dengue, Zika and chikungunya. Based on the results presented today, we decided to extend the project in CECAP/Eldorado district for another year and also signed a record of intent to expand the project to the central area of Piracicaba.

The mosquitoes produced by Oxitec are genetically modified so that when mated with wild-type mosquitoes they produce larvae that don’t make it to adulthood.

Oxitec, started in 2002 by Oxford University’s Isis Innovation technology transfer company, is currently owned by US company Intrexon.

Hadyn Parry, CEO of Oxitec said the proposed production facility in Piracicaba will have capacity to protect over 300,000 people from Dengue, Zika and chikungunya viruses.

As the principal source for the fastest growing vector-borne infection in the world in Dengue Fever, as well as the increasingly challenging Zika virus, controlling the Aedes aegypti population provides the best defense against these serious diseases for which there are no cures.

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