Andrew Jacobs – The New York Times, 02/16/2016
SALVADOR, Brazil — The Zika virus, some Brazilians are convinced, is the inadvertent creation of a British biotech company that has been releasing genetically modified mosquitoes to combat dengue fever in Brazil. Others here and elsewhere see it as a plot by global elites to depopulate the earth and install a “one-world government.”
And after a group of Argentine doctors asserted that a larvicide, not the mosquito-borne Zika virus, was to blame for a surge in cases of the birth defect known as microcephaly, Brazil’s southernmost state went so far over the weekend as to ban the use of the larvicide in its drinking water — even though scientists and health officials insist there is no such link.
Like Zika itself, rumors about it have replicated with viral ferocity through social media and word of mouth, frustrating the Brazilian authorities as they grapple with a poorly understood pathogen whose origins and implications are still something of a mystery. With many of the rumors started and spread abroad, Brazil’s Health Ministry has been scrambling to do damage control.
Brian Winter – Reuters, 5/12/2015
An epidemic of dengue fever is fanning public anger over what Brazilians say is President Dilma Rousseff’s biggest challenge – the sad state of the national healthcare system.
About 750,000 cases of the mosquito-borne virus have been confirmed this year in this country of 200 million people, leading to waits of four hours or longer at some hospitals.
The disease, which causes fever and joint pain, has killed 229 people so far this year – up 45 percent from the same period in 2014.
Julia Carneiro – BBC News, 09/24/2014
Brazilian researchers in Rio de Janeiro have released thousands of mosquitoes infected with bacteria that suppress dengue fever. The hope is they will multiply, breed and become the majority of mosquitoes, thus reducing cases of the disease.
The initiative is part of a programme also taking place in Australia, Vietnam and Indonesia. The intercellular bacteria, Wolbachia, being introduced cannot be transmitted to humans.
The programme started in 2012 says Luciano Moreira of the Brazilian research institute Fiocruz, who is leading the project in Brazil.
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.
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.
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.
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.