My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: How Ministry of Health and IAEA using Radioactivity to reduce Aedes Aegypti Mosquito Population

Monday, May 16, 2016

How Ministry of Health and IAEA using Radioactivity to reduce Aedes Aegypti Mosquito Population

Looks like Zika Virus is now a serious threat in the Caribbean.

Puerto Rico, one of the first countries infected with th Zika Virus, has now reported their first case of microcephaly as reported in “Puerto Rico declares first case of Zika-related microcephaly”, published Friday, May 13, 2016, The Jamaica Observer.

Puerto Rico Zika virus stats are grim:

1.      925 cases of Zika virus
2.      18 pregnant women with Zika virus

Microcephaly, a deformity where the baby is born with an abnormally small head, has been linked to Zika virus in Brazil. Brazil also has equally grim statistics since October 2015 according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

1.      1,271 babies in Brazil with microcephaly
2.      235 babies dead from microcephaly

So how is Jamaica faring against the Zika Virus?

Ministry of Health hiding behind numbers  - IAES to irradiate Male mosquitoes  

So far, we've confirmed some eight (8) cases of the Zika Virus since Friday April 29th 2016.

However, based on past experience with the Chikungunya virus in 2014 as detailed in my blog article entitled “Jamaican Chikungunya Virus cover-up - JA$10,000 for Chikungunya Virus Test as Tropical Storm Edouard boost Aedes aegypti Mosquito”, there may be way more Zika Virus cases than is being reported.

So says Ministry of Health’s National Epidemiologist Dr Karen Webster-Kerr in the article “Number of confirmed Zika cases the ‘tip of the iceberg’”, published Friday, April 29, 2016, The Jamaica Observer

Since Thursday May 5th 2016, plans are apparently in the works to release genetically modified Aedes Aegypti Mosquitoes to reduce their population as reported in “Jamaica To Participate In Genetically Engineered Mosquito Pilot Project”, Published Thursday May 5, 2016, The Jamaica Gleaner.  

According to Medical entomologist in the ministry, Sherine Huntley Jones, the idea is being led by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). The IAES will help Jamaica and other participating countries to irradiate male mosquitoes in much the same way they irradiate male screw worm larvae to produce sterile males.

When these males mate with females, they produce eggs that do not hatch, thereby reducing the population of mosquitoes in Jamaica. Because irradiation damages the male Aedes Aegypti Mosquito genetic code, the mosquitoes can be siad to be genetically modified.

Minister of Health, Dr. Christopher Tufton, however, has not signed off on this idea as stated in the article “Jamaica not yet on board regarding irradiated”, published Monday, May 09, 2016, The Jamaica Observer

So how does this differ from Oxitec’s genetically modified Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes?

Cayman Islands and Oxitec Genetically modified mosquitoes – Why irradiation is better

Since Thursday May 5th 2016 the Cayman Islands has also been testing genetically modified Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes produced by the biotech company Oxitec as reported in the article “Cayman To Start Releasing Genetically Modified Mosquitoes In Disease Fight”, Published Thursday May 5, 2016, The Jamaica Gleaner.

This initiative, which is a partnership between Cayman’s Mosquito Research and Control Unit and Oxitec, has resulted in the mosquito population being reduced by as much as 96%, as confirmed by Cayman Premier Alden McLaughlin.

Oxitec's tech kills the mosquito by using the Wolbachia bacterium inside of the mosquitoes gut. This bacterium may potentially mutate and start making animals ill and then possibly humans that consume meat containing this bacterium.

I’m betting on IAEA use of irradiated mosquitoes to do a better job in reducing the Aedes Aegypti Mosquito population and bring the Zika Virus epidemic under control. Irradiation and sterilization damages their reproductive capability and is known to work with screw worms.

Hopefully the Ministry of Health and IAEA will start their test trials of irradiated Aedes Aegypti Mosquitoes so as prevent potential microcephaly deaths from Zika virus.

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