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Australian scientists to begin trials to wipe out zika-carrying mosquitos

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By Mb Online

CANBERRA — Australian scientists are leading the charge in defeating mosquito-borne viruses such as zika and dengue fever.

In this Sept. 29, 2016 photo, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, responsible for transmitting Zika, sit in a petri dish at the Fiocruz Institute in Recife, Brazil. Brazil has confirmed more than 2,000 cases of microcephaly so far, and Health Minister Ricardo Barros says almost all of these babies are enrolled in rehabilitation centers to stimulate development. More than half of the children are from poor households with a monthly income of less than $70. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana | Manila Bulletin)

In this Sept. 29, 2016 photo, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, responsible for transmitting Zika, sit in a petri dish at the Fiocruz Institute in Recife, Brazil. Brazil has confirmed more than 2,000 cases of microcephaly so far, and Health Minister Ricardo Barros says almost all of these babies are enrolled in rehabilitation centers to stimulate development. More than half of the children are from poor households with a monthly income of less than $70. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana | Manila Bulletin)

Australia’s peak scientific body, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has announced it will partner with James Cook University and U.S research company Verily to attempt to mitigate the damaging effects of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which often carries deadly diseases.

The CSIRO has been developing a bacteria called wolbachia, which renders the male mosquitoes sterile. Throughout the study, scientists will monitor the mating habits of the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

Dr. Rob Grenfell from the CSIRO said the team hopes that, when the males mate with the females, the wolbachia will eventually transmit to the females, which will then be unable to produce larvae – in effect wiping out the disease-carrying female mosquitoes.

“This is completely safe, the bacteria has absolutely no effect on humans and is only mosquito bacteria,” Grenfell told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Thursday.

“The other issue is that the male mosquitoes, which we are using to carry this, do not bite humans – they actually feed on nectar.”

A pilot trial is expected to take place later this year in the tropical Queensland town of Innisfail, but Grenfell said they still required the approval of the community before they proceed.

If the trial is a success, the research could be fast-tracked to ensure other nations – in which zika and dengue fever are prevalent – can begin to wipe out the potentially-deadly mosquitos.

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