Monday May 28, 2018

$18 Million Donation to Target Mosquito-borne Diseases like Zika in Colombia and Brazil

The bacteria Wolbachia works by stopping the virus from growing inside the mosquito and thus spreading

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A technician releases Aedes aegypti mosquitoes with the dengue-blocking Wolbachia bacteria at the Tubiacanga neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, Sept. 24, 2014. VOA
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An international coalition of governments and philanthropic organisations has donated $18 million to fight Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses. The money will target the illnesses in Colombia and Brazil with a unique mosquito-control program.

The funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the British government, as well as Britain’s Welcome Trust and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will be used to scale up the innovative, widely praised program being developed in Australia.

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Use bacteria to fight virus

Over the years, the nonprofit Eliminate Dengue Program, in collaboration with Melbourne’s Monash University, has demonstrated a way to transfer a naturally occurring bacterium in the lab, called Wolbachia, into mosquitoes that carry the dengue virus.

Wolbachia is carried by 60 percent of all insect species worldwide, experts say, but not by Aedes aegypti, the type of mosquito that spreads dengue and can also transmit Zika virus, yellow fever and chikungunya.

Once infected with Wolbachia, the altered Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are unable to transmit dengue. When released into the wild, they mate with local mosquitoes, passing the bacteria to their offspring. Within a few months, the wild mosquitoes are unable to spread dengue to humans.

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Wolbachia works by stopping the virus from growing inside the mosquito and thus spreading.

FILE - Technicians carry containers filled with Aedes aegypti mosquitoes with the dengue-blocking Wolbachia bacteria before they are released at the Tubiacanga neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, Sept. 24, 2014. Similar work has been done in Australia, Vietnam and Indonesia.
FILE – Technicians carry containers filled with Aedes aegypti mosquitoes with the dengue-blocking Wolbachia bacteria before they are released at the Tubiacanga neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, Sept. 24, 2014. Similar work has been done in Australia, Vietnam and Indonesia. VOA

Researchers say the method of mosquito control is self-sustaining, having the potential to fight the life-threatening disease.

Trials to expand

Since 2011, the program has conducted field trials in Australia, Indonesia and Vietnam. The results show that when a high proportion of mosquitoes are infected, transmission of the virus stops. Small-scale field trials began in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2014, and last year in Bello, Colombia.

According to the World Health Organization, dengue infects almost 400 million people a year, mainly in tropical and subtropical countries.

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Severe dengue can cause death, especially in children.

The newly announced donations will rapidly scale up Wolbachia deployments in Latin America, beginning in 2017, to see how well the intervention works on a broader scale and in urban settings, hopefully leading to a significant reduction in Zika, dengue and chikungunya. (VOA)

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Fossils of 400-Year Old Invertebrate Marine Species Found in China

Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have recently found a fossilised body piece of an extinct class of marine animal known as Cystoidea or cystoids in southwest China's Guizhou Province.

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400 mn year old marine Fossils found in China.
Fossils. Pixabay.

Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have recently found a fossilised body piece of an extinct class of marine animal known as Cystoidea or cystoids in southwest China’s GuizhouProvince.

The fossil, that dates back some 400 million years, was discovered in Tongzi County while the scientists were studying a geological section in the area, according to the county government, Xinhua news agencyreported.

With an egg-shaped body, cystoids are echinoderms, marine invertebrates that existed during the Pleozoic Era, the Ordovician and Silurian Periods, and became extinct during the Devonian Period.

Guizhou boasts a rich store of prehistoric treasures. Fossils of various extinct invertebrate marine species have been discovered in the area. Tens of thousand of vertebrate fossils have also been found there.