Where: Oxford, United Kingdom
February 27, 2010 :Scientists have come up with a novel method to tackle the menace of dengue fever. They propose to breed mosquitoes that cant fly. The plan is to genetically alter the male of the species. These males will father a new generation of female mosquitoes with limited wing growth. The females will continue to transmit these genes, but only to female offspring. The male offspring will remain unaffected. Scientists feel this is a safe way to fight the spread of dengue – safer than the use of insecticides. The chief researcher Luke Alphey of the University of Oxford said,”The technology is completely species-specific, as the released males will mate only with females of the same species.”
Dengue is an incurable disease which affects people in tropical regions of the world. It is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito which breeds in stagnant water. The symptoms include high fever, weakness and bone pain. As in malaria, the virus which causes the disease is spread by the bite of infected female mosquitoes. There is no vaccine or treatment for the illness. It affects up to 100 million people a year. One third of the world’s population is exposed to the risk of catching dengue.
If it is released, the new breed of mosquito could suppress the native mosquito population in six to nine months. This method would not work with malaria control because a variety of mosquitoes carries the disease. Dengue is spread by one or two varieties only.
Dengue strikes between July and November in India. However, virologists have said that it could develop into a full-fledged epidemic by the middle of 2010. Sri Lanka reported 36 deaths from dengue in this year alone. The Sri Lankan government is threatening to jail people who do not clean up water puddles. The majority of mosquito breeding occurs in as little as 5 mm of water.
Argentina’s health authorities reported 500 dengue cases in the country, and neighbouring Paraguay reported 477 cases. In Indonesia, Bekasi in West Java recorded a spike of dengue fever cases after heavy rains. Around 90 patients with the fever were admitted to hospital in the first two weeks of this month.