Brazil to unleash GM-mosquito swarms to fight dengue

July 23, 2014

Sue Branford – New Scientist, 7/23/2014

Time to unleash the mozzies? Genetically modified mosquitoes will be raised on a commercial scale for the first time, in a bid to stem outbreaks of dengue fever in Brazil. But it is unclear how well it will work.

Next week biotech company Oxitec of Abingdon, UK, will open a factory in Campinas, Brazil, to raise millions of modified mosquitoes. Once released, they will mate with wild females, whose offspring then die before adulthood. That should cut the number of dengue-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. In April, Brazil’s National Technical Commission for Biosecurity (CTNBio) approved their commercial use.

The mosquitoes could be an important step forward in controlling dengue, which affects more than 50 million people every year, with a 30-fold increase in the last 50 years. There is no vaccine or preventive drug, so all anyone can do is to spray insecticide on a large scale in a bid to kill dengue-carrying mosquitoes.

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Self-Destructing Mosquitoes to Help Brazil Fight Deadly Dengue

July 1, 2014

Makiko Kitamura and Natasha Khan – Bloomberg, 7/1/2014

When he announced he was going to Brazil for the World Cup, Andy Quinn was warned by friends and a travel agent to lather on mosquito repellent to avoid potentially fatal dengue fever.

Some of the mosquitoes he saw “were like aliens — I’ve never seen them that big before,” said the 32-year-old Londoner, who attended three games in Brazil before his England team was sent packing. Brazil’s stepped up spraying of insecticides didn’t seem to help matters.

The country may soon have a more powerful weapon to use before it hosts the 2016 Summer Olympics: genetically modified mosquitoes that self-destruct before doing any damage.

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Preparing for a dengue fever vaccine: why Brazil’s ahead of the game

January 27, 2014

Ciro de Quadros – The Guardian, 1/27/2014

Dengue fever is now endemic in more that 125 countries. Six vaccines are currently in clinical development and policymakers and global health leaders need to be ready for when they come on the market.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called dengue fever the fastest spreading vector-borne viral disease with “epidemic potential” and “staggering” consequences. In the past 50 years, the number of reported cases has increased 30-fold. While the WHO estimates that 50-100m dengue infections occur each year, a new Nature study calculated that nearly 400m infections occurred in 2010 – four times as many as the official estimates.

Transmitted by mosquitoes, dengue is a painful illness that causes severe headache, muscle and joint pain, vomiting and skin rash. In some cases, it can lead to circulatory failure, shock, coma and death. But dengue’s impact goes beyond health. Recent studies on the impact of dengue put the economic cost at approximately $2.1bn per year in the Americas and more than $950m per year in Southeast Asia. Despite these high figures, the true economic impact could be much worse when accounting for under-reported and misdiagnosed infections.

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Brazil dengue cases almost triple as new strain spreads

February 26, 2013

BBC, 02/26/2013

Health authorities in Brazil say there has been a steep rise in the confirmed cases of dengue fever this year.

More than 200,000 people were infected in the first seven weeks of 2013 compared to 70,000 in the same period last year, official figures suggest.

The southern state of Mato Grosso do Sul has been hardest hit.

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Dengue, where is thy sting?

November 2, 2012

Vincent Bevins – Los Angeles Times, 11/01/2012

Under normal circumstances, Cicera Maria da Silva would be less than excited about a researcher intentionally releasing thousands of mosquitoes just outside her husband’s corner grocery store.

Mosquitoes here are not just a ubiquitous annoyance; they spread deadly diseases, including dengue fever, which struck Da Silva’s mother a year ago.

But that’s why she’s OK with the truck that passes through this poor corner of Brazil a few times a week and pours so many of the winged creatures into the hot streets. These genetically engineered members of the species Aedes aegyptihave been created in a lab, and are aimed at wiping out their brethren.

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Brazil to Breed Genetically Modified Mosquitoes to Fight Dengue

July 9, 2012

EFE/Fox News Latino, 07/08/2012

Brasilia –  The goal sounds easier than it is: Breed genetically modified mosquitoes that would actually cut down mosquito populations.

Brazilian authorities inaugurated Saturday a breeder for a genetically modified type of aedes aegypti mosquito in hopes of finding a more effective way to combat dengue, of which 431,194 cases have been registered this year nationwide.

The so-called “mosquito factory” was built at a cost of 1.7 million reais ($850,000) and financed by the government of Bahia state with the help of the Health Ministry.

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Brazil tests GM mosquitoes to fight Dengue

April 12, 2012

Helen Mendes –, 04/11/2012

Engineered males might mean fewer female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to spread Dengue fever.
James Gathany/CDC

Scientists in Brazil say an experiment to reduce populations of the dengue-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito, by releasing millions of genetically modified (GM) insects into the wild, is working.

More than ten million modified male mosquitoes were released in the city of Juazeiro, a city of 288,000 people, over a period of time starting a year ago.

The results were released at a workshop in Rio last week (28–29 March), where the project’s co-ordinator, Aldo Malavasi, said they were “very positive”.

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Brazil deploys “junior firefighters” to snuff out dengue

February 2, 2012

Fabiana Frayssinet – IPS, 02/01/2012

Racing for Peace in the Rocinha favela, one of the many creative activities organised under the campaign against dengue fever. Credit:Rio de Janeiro Health Secretariat

The government of the state of Rio de Janeiro is unveiling a battery of creative tactics to engage the population in the battle against dengue fever, which is threatening to reach unprecedented epidemic proportions as a new virus strain hits Brazil.

School is out for the austral summer and the options in Rio’s Complexo do Alemão favela (shantytown) are either “hanging out in the street” or gearing up to combat dengue, says Miguel Terto, a 14-year- old aspiring firefighter.

“It gives us something different to do, but it also encourages us to save lives,” the teenager told IPS. Terto lives in one of the 20 favelas of the city of Rio de Janeiro – the capital of the state – that underwent a pacification process last year.

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Collaborative efforts in fighting endemic diseases

October 28, 2011

FAPESP, 10/26/2011

The results of research into the prevention and treatment of endemic diseases like malaria and dengue fever in Brazil were the subject of the session on Vaccines and Drugs that started off the third day of discussions in the symposium FAPESP Week, which ends today in Washington, DC.

Jorge Kalil, Director of the Butantan Institute, spoke about the studies currently underway to advance new immunization technologies.  In his presentation entitled, “Research and Production of Immunobiologicals,” Kalil highlighted cooperative projects with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on the study of rotavirus, which causes the acute gastroenteritis responsible for the high global death rate among children under age 2, and on the dengue virus.  Other projects are being carried out with the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (finding an adjuvant for the treatment of ovarian cancer) and the Sabin Vaccine Institute in collaboration with the George Washington University (on the schistosome, the parasite that causes schistosomiasis).

According to Kalil, the Butantan Institute is also very involved in increasing the production and improvement of techniques for hepatitis B immunization, produced for over 10 years at the institution.

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Women in favelas broadcast peace

July 13, 2011

Fabiana Frayssinet – Inter Press Service, 07/12/2011

Local women’s voices have begun to be heard over a community radio station now broadcasting in Complexo do Alemao, a clump of favelas or shantytowns on the north side of this Brazilian city that were ruled until recently by armed drug gangs.

Gender issues, social and health matters, local environmental problems, employment and women’s rights are the focus of Radio Mulher, or women’s radio station, which began to broadcast this month.

Before going on the air, the participants received a year of training about the workings of a radio station, including general courses for all as well as specific training in different areas depending on each woman’s role in the station, as determined by each individual’s strengths and talents.

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