Drones to drop sterile male mosquitos in fight against Zika virus in Brazil

Aedes aegypti—a mosquito vector of Zika virus. Credit: Wikipedia / Rafaelgilo.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has concocted a novel plan to combat the spread of the Zika virus in Brazil by sterilizing and releasing large amounts of male mosquitoes using drones.

Sterilized male mosquitoes will mate with females in the wild who will lay eggs that produce no offspring.

“It’s a birth control method, the equivalent of family planning for humans,” commented Kostas Bourtzis, a molecular biologist with the IAEA’s insect pest control laboratory.

The sterilization method, called irradiation (exposure to radioactive material), has been used by the IAEA to control fruit flies on the Portuguese island of Madeira.

The agency said Monday that it will pay to ship the device used in Madeira to Juazeiro in Brazil’s northeast region, pending an import permit from the Brazilian government.

This drone has an advanced electronically scanning radar on board, equipment usually much too bulky and expensive for such small craft.

A Brazilian non-profit, Moscamed, has begun parallel efforts to breed 12 million mosquitoes a week to be sterilized with a cobalt-60 irradiator in collaboration with Canadian company MDS Nourdion.

Brazilian scientists are also experimenting with radioactive sterilization.

The Fiocruz biomedical research institute in Recife has released 30,000 mosquitoes sterilized by radioactive exposure on Fernando de Noronha, an island 350 km 217 miles) off the coast of northeast Brazil.

Fiocruz’s pilot radioactive sterilization project found that 70 percent of the eggs laid by females were sterile, according to Fiocruz researcher Alice Varjal. Results from their latest experiment in Fernando de Noronha are expected in May. (Sputnik)

About the IAEA (H/T Wikipedia):
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons. The IAEA was established as an autonomous organization on 29 July 1957. Though established independently of the United Nations through its own international treaty, the IAEA Statute, the IAEA reports to both the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.

The IAEA has its headquarters in Vienna. The IAEA has two “Regional Safeguards Offices” which are located in Toronto, Canada, and in Tokyo, Japan. The IAEA also has two liaison offices which are located in New York City, United States, and in Geneva, Switzerland. In addition, the IAEA has three laboratories located in Vienna and Seibersdorf, Austria, and in Monaco.


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