U.N. to Go Nuclear Against Zika Virus

Experts from the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency are to meet Brazilian officials on Feb. 16 to discuss how best to roll out the Sterile Insect Technology (SIT) in the country that will host the 2016 Summer Olympics in August.

"If Brazil released a huge number of sterile males, it would take a few months to reduce the population, (but) it has to be combined with other methods," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Deputy Director General Aldo Malavasi told reporters.

The spread of the Zika virus, which the World Health Organization has declared an international public health emergency, could be fought by more intense sanitation efforts, the use of insecticides or traps as well.

SIT involves exposing males of the Aedes aegypti mosquito to X- or Gamma rays to render their sperm sterile. Such laboratory-bred male mosquitoes could then be released in the wild to mate with the females of the species who then bear eggs that never hatch, thus reducing the number of insects in a given area without killing any animals or using chemicals.

Countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Indonesia have also requested the technology from the IAEA to control their mosquito populations. According to the WHO, the Zika virus is "spreading explosively" and could infect as many as 4 million people in the Americas.

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Sourced from: Reuters, U.N. ready to irradiate mosquito sperm to combat Zika virus