The Board of Governors of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on 8 March 2016 approved a 2.3 million euro initiative to help Latin American and the Caribbean countries fight against Zika virus. The spread of the virus will be tackled with a nuclear technique that has been used to suppress various insect pests.
Under this project, IAEA will transfer the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), a form of pest control that uses ionizing radiation to sterilize male insects mass-produced in special rearing facilities.
Major highlights of the project
• The IAEA will donate special equipment and train local staff on the use of the technique against the Aedes mosquito that carries Zika virus.
• The project will strengthen national and regional mechanisms for control of the Aedes mosquito population.
• Sterilized male mosquitoes will be released over affected areas, where they will mate with wild females, which will not produce any offspring. This will significantly reduce mosquito populations and disease transmission.
The project was drawn on the lines of recommendations of an international experts’ meeting that took place in February 2016 in Brazil to discuss the use of the technique as part of a comprehensive approach to controlling mosquito populations.
So far, Zika has spread to 31 countries and territories in the Americas. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it a public health emergency of international concern, predicting that Zika could infect three to four million people in the Americas in 2016. The virus may be associated to neurological disorders and it has no immediate cure.
About Sterile Insect Technique (SIT)
Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) is a form of pest control that uses ionizing radiation to sterilize male insects mass-produced in special rearing facilities.
Since 1997, SIT has been transferred to numerous countries by the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture. The technique is being transferred to combat pests that affect food and crops, and insects that transmit diseases – including mosquitoes.
The IAEA, in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), spearheads global research in the development and application of SIT.
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Why: To Combat Zika virus