Following successful open release trials in Brazil, Moscamed are now gearing up for the next phase of development in combating the mosquitoes which spread dengue fever, with the launch of their new mosquito production facility.
Dengue Fever is a virus spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is neither medication nor a vaccine to prevent Dengue Fever so effective measures to control the dengue mosquito Aedes aegypti are urgently required since the disease is becoming geographically more wide-spread, more prevalent and more virulent. The incidence of dengue has increased 30 fold in the last 50 years and, according to WHO, 2.5 billion people are now at risk. The severe form of dengue, known as Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever, was first recognized in the 1950s but has become has become a leading cause of hospitalization and death among children in Asian and Latin American countries.
On July 7th, 2012, Moscamed formally opened their new facility, which will enable production of Oxitec's mosquitoes to be scaled up to an initial level sufficient for a town of approximately 50,000 people. The opening was attended by the Minister of Heath of Brazil, Alexandre Padilha, who stated he was supporting the project and saw this technology as an important new tool for the country in the fight against dengue. Other attendees were Jorge Solla the Secretary of Health of the State of Bahia, Paulo Camer the Secretary of Science, Technology and Innovation of State of Bahia and Manuel Barral representing Ministry of Science and Technology.
The evaluation of Oxitec mosquitoes in Brazil is called 'Project Aedes Transgenico' (PAT) and is being carried out by Moscamed and the University of Sao Paulo in collaboration with Oxitec and is supported by the State of Bahia government. The project commenced in 2010 and the first outdoor releases took place in February 2011. Phase 1 of the project involved successful transfer of transgenic mosquito production from UK to Brazil with the establishment and local optimization of mass rearing methodologies. In Phase 2 the team demonstrated success in controlling the mosquitoes that spread dengue fever in Itaberaba, a densely populated suburb in Bahia state.
Brazil has a mature regulatory system for genetically modified organisms (GMO's) and its by-products, with a long history of open releases of genetically modified plants in agriculture. All activities have been carried out under regulatory permits and in close consultation with national and local stakeholders.
Dr Margareth Capurro of the University of Sao Paulo, who is leading the project, said, "After a long period of contained evaluation work, we started a series of releases in Brazil in February 2011 in the outdoor environment. Then, from December 2011 we commenced a suppression trial and showed that, in the area where we were releasing the sterile male mosquitoes, we could control the mosquito that spreads dengue fever. This was done in a suburb of Juazerio, Bahia state where mosquitoes are at a very high level all year round. When we started the trial we were seeing Aedes aegypti in about half of the traps we set in and around people's homes. Now we see hardly any. Comparing the area of release to the adjacent area where no releases were made, we have reduced the population of Aedes aegypti by 85%. We are very excited by the result."
Dr Aldo Malavasi the President of Moscamed added, "Dengue represents a major health challenge for Brazil. The Oxitec sterile insect approach has great potential and, as Moscamed are the experts in using sterile insects in Brazil, we have taken the lead in coordinating the evaluation of this approach. Transparency and community engagement have been at the forefront of every stage of this process and we have been delighted by the response from the local community. We have also had excellent support and advice from political, scientific and health leaders at both state and federal level. Now, with the roll-out of our new production facility, with the employment and expert training that entails, local communities stand to benefit even more from our ability to control this disease spreading mosquito within Brazil."