MSU Researchers reduce mosquito populations

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FILE – In this Feb. 11, 2016 file photo of aedes aegypti mosquitoes are seen in a mosquito cage at a laboratory in Cucuta, Colombia. Congress is ready to act on President Barack Obama’s long-stalled request for emergency funds to combat the Zika virus, which has been linked to serious birth defects and other major […]

EAST LANSING, Mich (WLNS) – Michigan State University is partnering in a joint effort that successfully reduced a mosquito population in China.

Researchers used a new technique to control the insect that spreads dengue, Zika and other diseases.

The results of this pilot trial combines incompatible and sterile insect techniques that nearly eliminated field populations of the world’s most invasive mosquito species over a two-year period.

Almost 200 million irradiated adult male mosquitoes line infected with Wolbachia were released in Guangzhou, China.

Using a form of insect birth control to sterilize male insects, they are then released to mate with wild females. Since they do not produce any offspring, the insect population declines over time.

Infecting them with Wolbachia reduces the amount of radiation needed, which keeps the males more competitive while also sterilizing females to avoid replacing the target population.

“Our study predicts that the overall future costs of a fully operational intervention using this environmentally friendly approach will be around $108 per hectare annually,” said Zhiyong Xi, a microbiology and molecular genetics professor at MSU, leads this international consortium and is the corresponding author of this paper.

China plans to test the technology in larger urban areas soon.

Success of the field trial in Guangzhou resulted in a broad international collaboration with disease endemic countries including Singapore and Mexico.

Xi will establish resources in Merida, Mexico and collaborate with Autonomous University of Yucatan to combat Zika.

Additionally, he will address dengue incidence which has been increasing every year with 390 million new infections estimated yearly.

Xi will also work with a Hawaiian collaborator to protect endangered native bird species from avian malaria.

The technique has been used for over 60 years to fight agricultural pests such as the Mediterranean fruit fly and has only recently been adapted for disease-transmitting mosquitoes.

The insect control method can be particularly useful against human disease vectors that are difficult to manage using conventional techniques, or that became resistant to insecticides.

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