The “Aedes aegypti” mosquito, or tiger mosquito, the same mosquito that transmits dengue and chikungunya, is also responsible for the spread of the chikungunya virus.
The World Health Organization, the UN Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are working on a new technique to sterilize mosquitoes. Next year, large-scale tests to eradicate dengue, zika and chikungunya will be launched in about 20 countries.
The insect sterilization technique is not new. It has been used since the end of the 1950s to control populations of certain crop pests.
On paper it seems simple: male mosquitoes are raised in large numbers. They are irradiated to make them sterile and then released into the soil or air by drones to replace the other males during breeding. As a result there should be less offspring which means less mosquitoes capable of spreading diseases.
“We can reduce the density of tiger mosquitoes from 95 to 98 percent,” says Jérémy Bouyer, who is working on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s program. But eradicating all invasive species, even in one place on the planet, will not be easy. I don’t even think that’s possible. Mosquitoes are everywhere. They move with our luggage, with commercial cargo so the goal is not to exterminate them. The goal is to eliminate enough of them so that they don’t transmit diseases anymore.
Dengue is of particular importance to the WHO. After a decline in 2017-2018, more and more cases are emerging worldwide. With 4 million people potentially infected in 2019. This is due to rising temperatures and heavy rainfall in some areas.
The WHO does not want to set a target. But an expert believes that if mosquito sterilization works, the number of people infected with dengue, chikungunya and zika could quickly be halved.