Hadyn Parry; Engineering Sterile Mosquitoes to Irradiate Dengue Carrying Mosquito’s
Haydn Parry , stated that “the most dangerous animal, is the mosquito”, and frankly, I agree. Mosquito’s cause more than 300 million global cases of Malaria per annum, resulting in almost 1.2 million deaths. They pose as vectors that are significant in the transmission of virus’s such as Malaria, Yellow Fever and Dengue. In addition, even though its flight is limited to approximately 200 yards during its life, its capacity for laying eggs grants it the potential to spread disease over long distances.
Originally mosquito related epidemics were controlled utilising lava-sides and chemical smog. Both forms of control proved ineffective as can be shown by a global increase in moquito population. Oxytech industries, run out of Oxford University, is a company that pioneers solutions relating to crop and pest control. Recently they have been working on project with the aim to irradiate specific disease spreading mosquitos.
This put them in flight to design a program that would be effective at
- decreasing mosquito populations
- being “safe to human” health
- having no lasting impact on the environment, being species specific (so not to harm insects important in sustaining alternate ecosystems)
- being affordable by developing countries
Oxytech has achieved this by manipulating two features of mosquito biology
- Male mosquitos don’t bite. Only female mosquitos bite.
- Phenomenon: Male mosquitos are extremely attracted to female mosquitoes. “If there is a male mosquito that you release, and there is a female around, that male will find the female”
This invention has been designed to suit countries that have insufficient resources. Producing sterile male mosquitos is a cheap enterprise because
- two hundred and twenty million sterile male mosquitos can be produced in a four meter by four meter lab
- low freight costs : three million of these eggs can be exported in a box the size of a “coffee cup”
Oxytech’s novelty has been trialled in small villages of (~2000- 3000 People) in the Cayman Islands, Malaysia and Brazil, in which mosquito populations have decreased on average by approximately 85% within the first 4 months of trials. This accomplishment has driven Oxytech to scale up this operation; catering to towns with populations beyond fifty thousand.