Zika Virus Outbreak Is Less Likely In The US: Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Are Released In Brazil To Combat Infection

January 27
9:41 PM 2016

There is an alarming increase of Zika virus cases in many countries around the world including Brazil raising concerns on the spread of pathogen in the US.

While health experts confirm that the spread of the infectious disease in US is less likely, there are Zika virus cases reported in the country among people that recently travelled to places that have ongoing infection.

"Based on what we know right now, we don't think that widespread transmission in the United States is likely," said Dr. Beth Bell, director of National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to NPR.

Bell noted that the mosquito species Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus responsible for transmission of viruses are found only in the South and tropical parts of the US. He also added that many counties in the country contain the infection with mosquito sprays and people tend to use air conditioners in summer thereby check the entry of mosquitoes into their houses through windows and doors during the day.

Meanwhile, one of the residents in Virginia that has travelled outside the country is confirmed to be infected with Zika virus. The state officials that confirmed the report on Tuesday noted that there is no risk of disease transmission from the infected individual.

"Zika virus is acquired through the bite of an infected mosquito. Because it is not mosquito season in Virginia, this individual with Zika virus infection poses no risk to other Virginians," Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Marissa Levine said in a statement, reported The Jerusalem Post.

In an effort to prevent the ongoing Zika virus infection, Oxitec, a renowned British company has come up with a genetically engineered Aedes aegypti species to combat the disease. A. aegypti that carries dengue and chikungunya is the one mainly responsible for transmitting Zika virus.

The genetically modified male mosquitoes don't produce viable offspring, the female mosquitoes that mate with the modified species lay eggs however the larva die before they attain adulthood. The trials conducted by Oxitec have it that the disease spreading mosquito population could be reduced by 90 percent by releasing GMOs, noted NPR

Oxitec has entered an agreement with Piracicaba, Brazil, to build mosquito production units enough to cover over 60,000 people in the city. However, Oxitec is yet to be approved by FDA to conduct trials in Florida Keys since people are concerned about the consequences of releasing a GMO species into the environment. 

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