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Friday, May 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Bacteria May Slow Zika-Carrying Mosquitoes

(CN) - Researchers have come up with a new strategy to limit the spread of Zika: infecting the species of mosquitoes responsible for passing the virus on to humans.

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes — the primary vector of Zika, yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya — in Colombia and Brazil will be infected with the Wolbachia genus of bacteria, which has been shown to limit the spread of viruses carried by mosquitoes.

The British and American governments are working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.K.-based Wellcome Trust to expand field tests in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Bello, a city in northwest Colombia.

The tests build on more than a decade of work by researchers who aim to use the bacteria to infect Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and stem the spread of the diseases they carry.

"We'll know within a year if these mosquitoes we've released are becoming common amongst the population," Bill Gates told The Associated Press. "Then we'll see simply by the number of people who get sick from either Zika or dengue. If those numbers come down quite substantially in these cities but not in other cities that'll be the proof of this over a decade-long quest to use this intervention."

In a statement, the Eliminate Dengue campaign said the upcoming tests build on earlier field trials in Vietnam, Australia and Indonesia. There has also been small-scale work in Colombia and Brazil dating back to 2014.

While Zika infections generally do not result in symptoms — and tend to be minor in adults when they do occur — the virus poses significant risk for mothers due to its connection to a variety of congenital disorders.

In the AP interview, Gates said he hopes 2017 will mark the end of polio. He also denied interest in participating in U.S. politics after being identified in leaked emails someone Hillary Clinton's campaign considered for vice president this past spring.

"My full-time work for the rest of my life will be work for the foundation," he said.

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