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According to the World Health Organisation, a technique that sterilizes male mosquitoes using radiation will soon be tested as part of global health efforts to control diseases such as chikungunya, dengue, and Zika.

The Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) is a form of insect birth control.  The process involves rearing large quantities of sterilized male mosquitoes in dedicated facilities, and then releasing them to mate with females in the wild. As they do not produce any offspring, the insect population declines over time.

Diseases transmitted by mosquitoes such as malaria, dengue, Zika, chikungunya, and yellow fever account for about 17% of all infectious diseases globally, claiming more than 700,000 lives each year, and inflicting suffering on many more. The 2015 outbreak of Zika in Brazil was linked to an increase in the number of babies being born with microcephaly. 

The Sterile Insect Technique was first developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and has been used successfully to target insect pests that attack crops and livestock, such as the Mediterranean fruit fly and the New World screwworm fly. It is currently in use globally in the agriculture sector on six continents.

The guidance on using the technique to control diseases in humans recommends adopting a phased approach that allows time to test the efficacy of the sterilized insects. Epidemiological indicators monitor the impact of the method on disease-transmission. It also provides recommendations on mass production of the sterile mosquitoes, government and community engagement, measuring the impact of the technique, and assessing cost-effectiveness.

The Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and WHO have developed a guidance document for countries that have expressed interest in testing the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) for Aedes mosquitoes.

Read more: Scientists Develop Genetically Enhanced Fungus That Kills 99% Of Malaria Mosquitoes

TDR, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, is a global programme of scientific collaboration that helps facilitate, support and influence efforts to combat diseases of poverty. It is co-sponsored by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and WHO.

Source: WHO

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