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Welcome to the Zika News Source. As the Zika virus continues its impact on the United States, Mosquito Squad knows how important it is to share timely news and tips on how to avoid mosquitoes and the seriously harmful diseases they can bring. Depend on Zika News Source as a trusted source for current news on the Zika virus.

 

October 4, 2018: Florida Adds Two New Zika Cases

With Collier County continuing to have the largest number, Florida is up to at least 74 cases of the mosquito-borne Zika virus this year, according to the state Department of Health website.

The 74 cases had been reported as of Monday and were an increase of two cases from a week earlier.

Other counties with reported cases have been Broward, Palm Beach, Lee, Osceola, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Hernando and Walton.

The department website said 72 of the cases are classified as “travel related” - generally meaning people were infected with the virus elsewhere and brought it into the state. The other two cases were classified as having “undetermined” origin. Both of the “undetermined” cases involved people in Miami-Dade County.

The disease, which caused major concerns in 2016, is particularly dangerous to pregnant women because it can cause severe birth defects.

Source: New 4 JAX

August 24, 2018: Children Exposed to Zika in Utero Need Long-term Monitoring

About one in seven children age 1 or older who were born to women with Zika virus infection during pregnancy have one or more health problems possibly caused by in utero exposure to the virus.

That’s according to a CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)(www.cdc.gov) and related Vital Signs(www.cdc.gov) report released Aug. 10.

“We know that Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause serious health problems in babies, such as birth defects and vision problems, including conditions not always evident at birth,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield, M.D., in a news release “We are still learning about the full range of long-term health problems these babies could face. We thank clinicians for their continued commitment to conduct all necessary tests and evaluations to ensure appropriate care.”

More than 4,800 pregnancies from U.S. territories and freely associated states that had laboratory results showing possible or confirmed Zika virus infection were reported to the U.S. Zika Pregnancy and Infant Registry (USZPIR) from 2016-2018.

Of these cases, 1,450 infants who reached age 1 or more by Feb. 1, 2018, had some follow-up care reported to the USZPIR after their first 14 days of life. Among these children, 95 percent had at least one physical exam at that point, 76 percent had developmental screening or evaluation, 60 percent had postnatal neuroimaging, and 48 percent had automated auditory brainstem response-based hearing screen or evaluation. Ophthalmic examination was reported in 36 percent of the children.

Among all the children with reported follow-up care, 6 percent had at least one Zika-associated birth defect identified, 9 percent had at least one neurodevelopmental abnormality possibly associated with congenital Zika virus infection identified, and 1 percent had both. Overall, about one in seven children had health problems possibly caused by Zika reported.

The CDC recommends that all infants born to mothers with Zika virus infection during pregnancy receive a variety of screenings and care even if they appear healthy at birth. This includes providing recommended pediatric follow-up care and referrals,(www.cdc.gov) including early intervention services.

The researchers noted that many of the children assessed didn’t receive all recommended screening for health problems potentially related to Zika virus. Following the recommended screenings and care for these babies is important, the CDC stated, to help ensure early identification of health problems and timely referral to services.

The agency also offered reminders that family physicians can use during visits with mothers and their children, including:

Ask every mother about possible Zika exposure during pregnancy, even if her baby appears healthy;
Share Zika test results with all health care professionals working with both mother and baby; and
Report health information about babies and young children affected by Zika during pregnancy to their state, local or territorial health department, even if they appear healthy.

Although there have been fewer cases of infection in the past couple of years, Zika virus still poses a risk for pregnant women and their infants, said CDC officials.

In addition to the 4,800 pregnancies in the U.S. territories and freely associated states described earlier, the CDC said nearly 2,500 pregnancies in the United States had laboratory results showing possible or confirmed Zika virus infection.

Source: AAFP News

June 25, 2018: Add Keystone Virus To The List Of Things You Can Catch From Mosquitoes

This from Bruce Y. Lee at Forbes.

“Just in case you were thinking, ‘why can’t you catch more infectious diseases from mosquitoes,’ you can now add Keystone Virus infection to the list of mosquito-borne illnesses. That’s based on a case report recently published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases by a team from the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida.

Keystone virus may not be the first thing you think about when you develop a low grade fever and a large bumpy rash on your body. (The first thing you probably think is, ‘what is this large bumpy rash doing on my body?’) Certainly, doctors weren’t thinking Keystone Virus when they first saw a 16-year-old male at an urgent care clinic in north central Florida in August 2016. The Keystone Virus is a type of orthobunyavirus and was first discovered in Aedes atlanticus mosquitoes back in 1964. This occurred in Keystone, Florida, hence the name. Until this recent case report, there had been no documented situations of the virus causing disease in humans. And based on the case report, the teenager was not a gray squirrel, a raccoon, or a whitetailed deer (three animals that are more commonly infected with the virus), unless the teenager was wearing some type of elaborate costume.

No, this 16-year-old seemed to be human and otherwise healthy when he began feeling ‘warm’ the night before the urgent care clinic visit. That following morning a red, bumpy rash started appearing on his chest and then progressively spread to his abdomen, arms, back, and face. The rash did not hurt or itch but seemed to get worse with heat and sunlight. He did feel a bit fatigued and had discomfort in his ankles but blamed these problems on band camp. Yes, that one time in band camp, he had put on new band shoes and continued to wear those new shoes throughout the band camp that he was still attending that summer. Oh, and those many times in band camp, he was bitten by mosquitoes, despite his wearing DEET.

Initial testing did not reveal usual suspects such as mononucleosis or Zika infection, but eventually more advanced testing found the Keystone Virus. Since there is currently not much you can do about a Keystone Virus infection, except say, “you have a Keystone virus infection,” the teenager did not receive specific treatment. The rash eventually disappeared 2 days later without any apparent further consequences. So, for now, infection with the Keystone Virus doesn’t seem to be a serious problem. However, as they say with underwear and life, things can change. This is simply one case and one infection. Time will tell if other more serious cases are found. Plus, viruses can mutate and eventually become more troublesome. Just look at what happened to the Zika virus, which previously was thought to be harmless.

The trouble is mosquitoes suck. And then serve as Ubers for pathogens, carrying them from animal-to-animal, animal-to-humans, and humans-to-humans. The list of mosquito-borne illnesses already reads like a long menu that you do not want to order from and includes includes malaria, dengue, Zika, West Nile virus, chikungunya, yellow fever, filariasis, tularemia, Ross River fever, Japanese encephalitis, Saint Louis encephalitis, Western equine encephalitis, and Eastern equine encephalitis. Of course, not all mosquitoes are the same. Different species can carry different pathogens. At present, Aedes atlanticus mosquitoes seem to be the primary carrier for the Keystone Virus but there are signs that other Aedes species may be able to carry the virus as well.

While there is no reason to panic and go all Keystone Kops because of this new discovery, it will be important to follow the Keystone Virus more closely. Also, doctors should be aware of this as a possible diagnosis. Moreover, this further highlights the need for better mosquito control. Bill Gates didn’t call the mosquito the World’s Deadliest Animal for nothing. After all, how many times do you hear a story begin, and one time at band camp, there was this hippo and."

June 20, 2018: Mosquitoes Trapped in El Paso Test Positive for West Nile Virus

“The City of El Paso Department of Public Health has been notified that one of several mosquito pools collected, have tested positive for West Nile Virus.

The Vector Control Program with the Environmental Services Department has been setting traps this season since May.

The mosquito pool that tested positive were located in the central part of town within the 79903 zip code.
“When it comes to West Nile virus it is never really a question of ‘if’ we can expect to see the disease locally, but rather ‘when”, said Robert Resendes, Public Health Director. “What we can do is be proactive against being bitten and be aware that there are other diseases that could present themselves in El Paso.”
In years past, human cases of diseases like Chikungunya, Dengue, and Zika virus have been seen in El Paso but in travel-associated cases only.
There have been no cases reported this season of West Nile Virus in El Paso, but a total of 14 human cases were confirmed last year.

The city is urging El Pasoans to “Tip and Toss” items outside their homes frequently, to prevent stagnant water which could result in mosquito breeding. Residents should also follow these tips."

June 17, 2018: Florida Flowers Enable Disease-Carrying Mosquitoes to Flourish

“A leading source for the Zika outbreak in 2016 may have been those ornamental flowers in Florida.

A new study has revealed that bromeliad plants contribute to the breeding of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can carry infectious diseases such as Zika, dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya.

Bromeliad is the name for a family of plants that is incredibly diverse. There are 2,877 different species of bromeliads.

These flowers are common throughout South Florida and are a popular choice for landscaping projects since they do not require much care.

This University of Miami Miller School of Medicine (UM) study, published in the journal Parasites & Vectors, showed that water retained in the bromeliads’ leaf axils becomes breeding sites for the Aedes aegypti, the most dominant species of mosquito in the study’s test sites.

The lead study author John Beier, Sc.D., a UM Miller School entomologist, and director of the Division of Environmental and Public Health, urged against destroying the plants.

But, Beier said the new knowledge on the plant’s role in mosquito breeding will help tailor mosquito control efforts.

‘People should be aware that bromeliads are producing mosquitos so that they can treat the plants,’ he said in a press release.

Beier added that the dominant presence of the Aedes aegypti mosquito was unexpected since the mosquito did not have as great a presence in bromeliads in prior years.

“The larger problem is with the Aedes aegypti, not the disease,” he said.

Similar to the sudden Zika outbreak in 2016, these researchers said vector-borne diseases are spreading to new areas due to urbanization, human movement, and global warming.

But, according to previous research, the probable vector for these infectious diseases may be humans who travel internationally.

Recently, an international research team used genomic tools to trace the spread of the Zika virus.

This analysis suggests the Zika family tree shows, with a few exceptions, the virus that infected people in Florida, Central America or Mexico descended from a single importation event in Brazil.

The evidence also shows that many locations experienced two waves of Zika infection per year, not just one.

Peaking approximately every 6 months, the researchers analyzed the environmental suitability in each country for the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that primarily transmit Zika virus to people.

Their findings suggest that conditions ripe for the spread of Zika virus occur at different times of the year, depending on elevation and other factors.

Such as flowers!

UM has been a major partner in research, including mosquito mapping, surveillance and trapping. This research collaboration was supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

June 1, 2018: Zika Cases Rising in Florida

This update from ABC affiliate WZVN-HD in Florida.

“This year there have already been more than 40 travel related Zika cases in Florida – 15 of those were found in Southwest Florida.

“On top of that, local researchers say conditions are right for another outbreak.

“’You don’t have to wait many years in between these outbreaks,’ said biology professor, Scott Michael. ‘Sometimes they [the outbreaks] catch us by surprise.’

“Michael teaches at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) and is also one of the leading researchers in the fight against Zika.

“’Studying viruses is my way of helping,’ Michael said. ‘These things are global as well as local.’

“The work being done in his lab will go beyond Florida – it is going to reach parts of the world that need it.

“Michael said the Zika virus is still a big issue for people in the Caribbean.

“He said it not only takes an economic toll but also an enormous amount of human suffering, especially with children.

“Right now, he and his team of researchers are working with different cells from women, who were pregnant, and caught Zika.

“’That could help to develop a vaccine, that could help develop into medicines, and that could help to understand the epidemiology, which is the study of how these viruses travel and get to new places and spread,’ he said.

“As for another outbreak like the one we saw a couple years ago, Michael said it’s possible.

“’This is not the first time it happened, and it’s probably not the last time. You know, it’s difficult to predict for any one summer what we’re going to see. But, you can bet that these things will be back at some point.’

May 31, 2018: Could the Zika Virus Help Treat Brain Cancer in Children?

This interesting article from Sophia Swinford at Aleteia.

“Transmitted primarily through mosquito bites, the Zika virus was estimated in 2017 to be active in 50 countries and territories. Though many infected by the virus experience no symptoms, those who do are afflicted with fevers, joint pain, and rashes. In pregnant women, Zika can result in brain deformities for their newborns.

“But now this frightening infection is being used for healing. Researchers at the University of Sao Paulo Brazil are discovering ways to utilize the virus’ deadly effect against brain cancer. ‘There’s a major effort to study viruses for their potential in treating illness,’ Oswaldo K. Okamoto, a researcher at USP, told Bloomberg. Researchers are testing whether the detrimental effects the virus has on brain tissue can be used to eliminate cancerous tissue from the brain, and so far they’re finding success.

“When the team infected cancerous cells with the virus, the virus attacked the cancerous cells almost exclusively, leaving most of the healthy tissue largely unaffected. This proved true again when tested on mice carrying human tumor cells.

“The most optimistic news, though, is that the Zika virus is proving to be effective in treating some of the most dangerous types of tumors found in children diagnosed with brain cancer. Okamoto confirmed that in children brain cancer is often resistant to mainstream treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy, leaving many survivors with neurological damage. But this new unlikely treatment might offer hope.

“Though the treatment is still far from implementation, the new research is promising, and this deadly virus could someday be a blessing for many.”

May 29, 2018: As the Earth Warms, Mosquitoes Become a Social Justice Issue

According to Kate Stein from America, "The communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change are, in many cases, the ones that have the fewest resources to adapt. Mosquito-borne illnesses are no exception.

“As temperatures rise globally, previously temperate areas are more likely to experience subtropical and tropical heat. A study authored by New York and New Jersey government researchers and one by researchers in Egypt suggest that many types of mosquitoes will move into the newly subtropical and tropical areas—bringing with them diseases like Zika, dengue, yellow fever, West Nile virus and chikungunya. In many countries, that means more diseases in communities that lack the medical and mosquito-control resources to cope.

“Dr. Diego Herrera is a family physician with Andean Health and Development, a Catholic nonprofit serving communities in rural Ecuador. He estimates that 60 to 80 percent of his patients have been infected by disease-carrying mosquitoes—perhaps more, since some people carry mosquito-borne viruses without showing any symptoms of illness.

“’It’s not just one disease, one mosquito, one virus,” Mr. Herrera said. In central Ecuador, where A.H.D.’s hospitals are located, chikungunya is particularly problematic, but other mosquito-borne illnesses plague the region as well.

“And people who have been infected by one virus may experience more severe illness following infection with another. A study published last year by researchers at Mount Sinai Health System in New York shows that mice that have been previously infected with dengue can have more severe symptoms of Zika; the same is true for interactions among various serotypes of dengue.

Some of these diseases can have effects that are long-term or debilitating like birth defects, blindness or severe joint pain. (In the east African language of Makonde, “chikungunya” means “bending over disease” because of the chronic pain it causes some patients.) Particularly among people who already live in poverty, mosquito-borne illnesses can have a huge impact on daily life because of missed days or weeks of work.

“If you’re the father and get these illnesses, the whole family will be impacted,” Mr. Herrera said. He is worried that more and more families will struggle if infection rates in his part of Ecuador rise along with global temperatures.

“In the United States, incidences of mosquito- and tick-borne infections tripled between 2004 and 2016, in part because of warming temperatures, according to a study released on May 1 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The research suggests places like South Florida and Texas—both of which experienced outbreaks of locally transmitted Zika in the summer of 2016—may see longer mosquito seasons and more mosquito-borne illnesses as temperatures continue to rise.

“However, as temperatures in some places rise to optimal mosquito-breeding levels, temperatures in other places may become too hot for mosquitoes to spread disease.

“That pathogen has to basically go through an incubation period within the mosquito—anywhere from a couple of days to over a week,” Erin Mordecai, a Stanford researcher who studied the impact of temperature on mosquito populations, told NPR. Warmer weather causes viruses to mature faster, but it also shortens mosquitoes’ lives. So above a certain threshold, mosquitoes will die before they are able to spread disease. That means overall, the world may not necessarily see an increase in mosquito-borne illnesses, but there may be outbreaks in new places.

Catholic health care providers say when those places lack the resources to cope, climate change and mosquito-borne illnesses become issues of social justice.

“People who are the least responsible for this problem [of climate change] are the people who are bearing the burden, whether it’s in this country or third-world countries,” said Julie Trocchio, a senior director at the U.S. Catholic Health Association, which represents more than 2,200 Catholic hospitals and health facilities. She says the C.H.A. sees mosquito-borne illnesses as one of the many ways climate change has a disproportionately harsh impact on people who lack financial resources and political power.

“[Pope Francis] describes this as a moral issue beautifully in ‘Laudato Si’’—because of what it does to the poor, because of what it does to creation, because of what it does to our resources,” she said.

The C.H.A. has signed onto the Catholic Climate Covenant, a movement of organizations, church leaders, parishes and individuals seeking stronger action on global warming and climate change. It has urged President Trump and Congress to support the Clean Power Plan, the Paris climate accord and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“’We’re concerned that when people talk about climate change, health isn’t one of the impacts that comes up,’ said Ms. Trocchio. ‘And it’s huge, not just with the vector-borne diseases…but storms [and] heat events.’

“As warming temperatures allow mosquitoes to survive in new areas, there could be one upside, if it could be so described. Mr. Herrera believes mosquito-borne illnesses have garnered more attention—and funding—because of the increasing outbreaks in wealthier nations and cities. When the 2016 Zika outbreak in Miami prompted fears of a public health crisis, it also thrust Zika onto the radar of politicians, reporters and researchers in the United States.

“’It’s important that people in the first world care’ about mosquito-borne illnesses, Mr. Herrera said, in order for research benefiting poorer countries to be funded. Mr. Herrera said research on the impacts of concurrent infections, along with prevention efforts, would benefit his patients most.

“But, he added, new research cannot just focus on travelers who get infected during trips abroad, then bring the viruses back home. And in the United States, the public health implications of climate change cannot be in the spotlight only when a Zika outbreak bridges partisan divides.

“We must speak of how the world interacts, fundamentally,” he said.

May 25, 2018: A Vaccine for Zika Virus Just Might Be on Its Way

This just in from Maureen McFadden, WNDU News.

“What’s the deadliest creature on earth? Do sharks, crocodiles or snakes come to mind? Well, deaths from those creatures pale in comparison to mosquitos.

“Globally, mosquitos kill more than 700,000 people a year. Researchers are now testing a vaccine that will protect people against one of those mosquito-borne diseases, the Zika virus.

“Summer is just around the corner – a time for playgrounds, beaches and mosquitos.

“’There’s a lot of mosquitos out there, and they carry a lot of diseases," said Dr. Sarah George, an infectious disease specialist at St. Louis University. "They’re nasty pests.”

“George is one of several doctors chasing a vaccine for the Zika virus. Two years ago, an outbreak caused severe birth defects in thousands of babies across Central and South America.

“’Something called microcephaly where the brain never develops properly, and the skull actually collapses [was noticed]," George said. "There’s not enough brain tissue to hold it up.”

“An effective vaccine could prevent that. George is testing one, a two-dose shot that contains an inactivated form of the virus. In the study, more than 90 percent of volunteers showed an immune response to Zika.

“’Pregnancy is usually a wonderful thing," George said. "Nobody wants to be told, ‘I’m sorry. There’s something seriously wrong with your baby.’ Everyone wants to be protected against that and, if a vaccine can do that, that’s wonderful.”

“Rachael Bradshaw, a prenatal genetic counselor who works with families at risk for having babies with birth defects, did not hesitate to volunteer for the study.

“’It seemed like something I could do to help out, if we could find a way to protect babies in the future,” Rachael said.

“She said getting the vaccine was easy.

“’It’s really no different than getting a flu shot,” she said.

“While Zika cases have dropped dramatically since that first outbreak, a vaccine could keep pregnant women and babies safe against future threats.

“’We will have another Zika outbreak,’ George said. ‘We just don’t know when or where.’

In the 2016 outbreak, there were more than 5.000 Zika cases in the U.S. Most were among people returning from affected countries, but more than 200 cases came from mosquitos in Florida and Texas.

“This year, more than a dozen cases have already been reported in the U.S.

“It’s important to note that the virus can be transmitted by sexual contact, too, not just from mosquitos.”

NEW RESEARCH: Sarah George, MD, from the Center for Vaccine Development at St. Louis University is searching for a vaccine for Zika. She is doing one of four different studies with inactivated Zika vaccine which was developed by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. The vaccine trial was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, and she is studying how this vaccine works in terms of safety and antibody responses in about ninety healthy adults. The adults are being followed for a year after vaccination Early results showed no safety issues and it raised antibodies against Zika. Dr. George hopes someday they could give the vaccine to young girls before they ever become pregnant.
(Source: Sarah George, MD)"

January 8, 2018: Does 2018 Have Solution for Mosquito Disease?

More than 350 scientists from 95 leading organizations from around the world are testing a new generation of Anti-Mosquito called Kyzox as potential main weapon for Zika programs.

The program was funded by the European Union under the program Horizon 2020 “The need to reinvent health technology” to find an efficient response to the emergence of Zika Virus and more generally to the alarming 17% rise of Mosquitoes borne diseases infections occurring since 2013.

The funding allocated by the EU, €30 million, will go to three research consortia: ZikaPLAN (€11 million), coordinated by the Umeå University in Sweden, ZIKAction (€7 million), coordinated by the PENTA Foundation in Italy, and ZikAlliance (€12 million), coordinated by INSERM in France.

Project itself gathers the world’s largest expert’s coalition from the most prestigious universities, Foundations and Institutes from the five continents with the mission to deliver an Anti-Mosquitoes solution by the end of 2020.

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Dr. Thomas Ant invited Kyzox Technology Founder to join force to run a series of experiments on Anti-Mosquito formulas identified by experts as the world’s latest anti-mosquito technology.

“The objective is to move on to a more of a phase 3-style clinical trial to see if the product could impact on disease transmission in at risk populations. Provided results were suitably encouraging the WHO to the endorsement of the product as a recommended intervention” Dr Ant said.

The scientists groups are especially interested in Kyzox Anti-Mosquito laundry additive can become a major solution to reduce mosquito’s diseases infections among populations.

For years specialists shown concern to the global warming that contribute to the worldwide spread of the 18 major diseases transmit by mosquitoes but also help mosquitoes to migrate and adapt in north hemisphere territories. In 2015 Japan has the first dengue outbreak since 1975 and it’s a sign cannot be ignored by governments and health organizations said experts.

According to the World Health Organization, in 2016, deadly mosquito diseases have reached the alarming number of 5.5 million victims with an estimated over 1.2 billion infections worldwide.

The WHO also concluded that infection with the Zika virus during pregnancy was a cause of congenital brain abnormalities, including microcephaly, and that the Zika virus is a trigger for Guillain-Barré syndrome.

The Zika virus continues to expand to areas in North America and Europe besides the danger of the Zika virus compared to other mosquito-borne diseases is that the Zika virus leaves life after effect in Newborn who have been infected during pregnancy, which also becomes a heavy and long financial burden for families and governments.

Kyzox Technology was created by a French Entomologist, Dr Francois Martin, who makes his mark as the forerunner that succeed to integrate Anti-Mosquito in existing mass consumer’s products, such Laundry Detergents, Floor Cleaners or Paints.

More Known by his colleagues to run Anti-Dengue campaigns in the poorest areas of the planet than a researcher in his laboratory, in 2009, the Entomologist wrote a report to the World Health Organization concluding by “If mosquitoes kill the poorest peoples simply because they cannot afford to buy Anti-Mosquito and less to pay medical bill when infection occur.“It’s our duty to protect them by integrating an Anti-Mosquito compound in what they already use and afford to buy, laundry detergent and washing soap are the most suitable products to start from.”

The complete Kyzox formulas remain secret, contacted by phone in the Philippines where Kyzox process the formulas, Dr Martin accepted to unveil part of the secret formula, “from start we immediately eliminated the common anti-mosquitos used from the past 50 years by the industry. DEET, Permethrin, Picardin, D-Permethrin and so on, if they will work it will be no need to try to find a solution.

One of the components of this novel formula is the extract of Vitex Negundo leaves that have high Mosquitocidal (repellency) property, but alone is no use except for spray or lotion.

The keys are not only to fix the repellent on the textile but also to preserve its efficiency during washing process. Is only what I can say” mentioned the French Doctor during the phone interview.

In an industry of more than 50 billion dollar a year, Kyzox concept attracts major companies originally not in the anti-mosquito industry, Kansai, and Nippon paints launched their Anti-Mosquito paints, American tycoon Unilever in the starting block to commercialize Anti-Mosquito laundry detergent and floor cleaner by the end this year.

“We focus on local manufacturers with regional brands because they react faster, their products are more affordable and are closer to the communities we hope to protect, large international companies are welcome to launch with our formula or something else, the only point is what they will offer to consumers must work, Kyzox was created to reduce mosquitoes borne diseases infections among the poorest, not to create a multimillion dollar business, the future will show which formula consumers trust.” said Dr Martin.

Source: The Jet, Fiji

January 5, 2018: L.A. County Officials Confirm First Case of Sexually Transmitted Zika Virus

Los Angeles County officials said Thursday that a woman had been infected with the Zika virus by her partner in the first case of sexually transmitted Zika virus in the county.

A man who lives in L.A. County traveled to Mexico and became infected with the Zika virus in early November, and shortly afterward his female partner, who didn’t travel to Mexico, also developed the infection, officials said.

“This case is a reminder to take precautions during sex or avoid sex if you or your partner have traveled to an area with risk of Zika,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, L.A. County’s interim health officer.

Zika virus, which has caused hundreds of babies to be born with birth defects in Brazil, is most commonly transmitted by mosquitoes. The virus can also be transmitted through sex, though that’s much rarer.

Since 2015, there have been 122 cases of Zika infection in L.A. County, 121 of which were acquired while traveling to countries where the virus is spreading, such as Mexico and Brazil. There are no mosquitoes carrying the virus in L.A. County or elsewhere in California.

In California overall, there have been 619 cases of Zika virus since 2015, eight of which were sexually transmitted.

Health officials warned that people who travel to countries where Zika is a risk should wear mosquito repellent as well as long sleeves and pants. A couple in which one partner might have been exposed should follow national health guidelines for condom usage to prevent transmission to the other partner.

The virus can cause birth defects in pregnant women, so pregnant women should use condoms or abstain from sex for the length of their pregnancy if their male partner has been exposed to Zika virus, officials said.

Most people who are infected with Zika virus don’t have symptoms. Those that do have symptoms might experience a fever, a rash or muscle pain that lasts for about a week.

Source: Los Angeles Times

January 2, 2018: The Effect of the Zika Virus on Toddlers

According to BJ Hetherington, "Zika Virus was first reported in 2015, and the babies born with the virus are now turning two years old. These toddlers are having a hard time coping with the disease, as the side effects of the virus are already showing up. The children who became infected with the virus have microcephaly, or an abnormally small head. These results to a small brain that gives them the difficulty to speak, understand, and even eat. These children are also feared to be lacking in development, and they are expected to become mentally handicapped for the rest of their lives. Experts are suggesting that the children infected with Zika Virus be given a lifetime care program, because they would never be well as the brain was greatly affected by the virus itself.

“In 2015, after the initial outbreak of Zika Virus in Brazil was picked up by the media and was reported to the world, scientists working in the field of medicine decided to observe and study the children who were infected. 15 Brazilian children who are believed to experience the worst type of side effect from Zika Virus are being studied by experts, hoping that they can find answers how to prevent the virus from infecting someone in the future, or if there is a chance for the victims of the virus to recover. There were reports in the past stating that over 3,000 children in Brazil alone were infected with the virus, and it prompted the government to shift their attention to communities which were greatly affected. The hardest hit region of Brazil is Paraiba, and the government sent specialists that examined the children.

“The children subjected to the study came from the poorest families in the region, and while individuals who are infected with Zika Virus need to have attentive and special care, experts believe that most of the Brazilian children who are living with the disease would never get any special care at any point of their lives because of their financial difficulties. Experts are appealing instead to those who wanted to help the poor children to donate cash so that the children can continually be observed by specialist and be given the attention that they deserve.

“Zika Virus is an evidence that nature continues to evolve, and humanity cannot do anything if nature decides that the humans has to go. Men should be prepared to withstand every challenge that nature is hurling towards us.”

Source: Medical Daily Times

December 13, 2017: Zika Cases Are Down, But Researchers Prepare for The Virus’s Return

One of the top stories of 2016 quietly exited much of the public’s consciousness in 2017. But it’s still a hot topic among scientists and for good reasons. After Zika emerged in the Western Hemisphere, it shook the Americas, as reports of infections and devastating birth defects swept through Brazil and Colombia, eventually reaching the United States. In a welcome turn, the number of Zika cases in the hemisphere this year dropped dramatically in the hardest-hit areas.

But few scientists are naïve enough to think we’ve seen the last of Zika. “The clock is ticking for when we will see another outbreak,” says Andrew Haddow, a medical entomologist at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Frederick, Md.

Researchers’ to-do list for tackling this once-unfamiliar virus is daunting. But progress has been made, especially in learning more about Zika’s biology and interactions with its hosts, and in developing a safe and effective vaccine.

In 2017, the epidemic lost steam because many areas have probably developed herd immunity to the virus (SN: 11/11/17, p. 12). Zika infected a large number of people, who are now presumably immune, and those exposed provide indirect protection to people who haven’t yet encountered Zika. If the mosquito-borne virus can’t find enough people to infect, it can’t easily spread.

But Zika doesn’t rely only on mosquitoes to get around. This year, researchers learned more about how the virus spreads through sexual intercourse. In humans, Zika can persist in semen for close to three months, researchers learned. And Haddow and colleagues reported in the August Emerging Infectious Diseases that four of eight macaques exposed to the virus vaginally developed infections as did seven of eight macaques that received the virus via the rectum.

In 95 percent of people tested, Zika RNA is cleared from the blood by 54 days after symptoms begin, and urine by 39 days. In 95 percent of men tested, Zika RNA disappears from semen by 81 days. Few people in the study had detectible levels of Zika RNA in saliva or vaginal secretions.

In the wild, animals can act as reservoirs for Zika between human outbreaks. A small number of black-striped capuchin monkeys and common marmosets in a region of Brazil with high numbers of human cases were found to carry the virus already, the first such report among New World monkeys. But there’s still a lot to learn about how the virus is maintained long-term in nature, Haddow says.

Convinced that Zika is here to stay and especially concerned about its effects during pregnancy, researchers have rushed to develop vaccines. In its first test in humans, reported online October 4 in the New England Journal of Medicine, one vaccine based on DNA from the virus elicited an immune response, with 100 percent of participants developing antibodies after a three-dose regimen. Another DNA vaccine, developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, MD, is in a second round of human testing.

Attention to the virus may wane further. But the risk to public health remains, and interventions are still needed, such as ongoing monitoring that tracks Zika and other infectious diseases in pregnancy, says Denise Jamieson, an obstetrician gynecologist at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. “We’re not ready for another emerging infectious disease that may disproportionately affect pregnant women or their fetuses or babies,” she says. “And we need to be.”

Source: Science News

December 8, 2017: Ecuador Earthquake Linked to Zika and Stress

Zika virus cases skyrocketed from 103 just before the quake to 1,275 confirmed cases in Ecuador 10 weeks after the disaster, with 86 percent of all new cases occurring near the Manabi epicenter

A public health study has found a link between psychological distress and people experiencing Zika-like symptoms in areas hardest hit by Ecuador’s 2016 earthquake, particularly among women between the ages 40 and 60 years.

The city of Bahia de Caraquez in Ecuador’s Manabi province was rocked by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 16, 2016. The region’s weak infrastructure and lack of preparedness resulted in high rates of mortality and morbidity and significant damage to buildings, roads and water supply.

At least 660 people died, with a further 30,200 displaced and 720,000 left in need of humanitarian assistance. More than 9,700 buildings were reported damaged or destroyed.

Survivors were forced to sleep outside in makeshift tents and store water in open tanks, placing them under increased psychological stress.

A joint study by the Ecuadorian Department of Health; the SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY; and the University of California San Francisco in Sacramento concludes the conditions caused a spike in incidents of the Zika virus and other vector-borne diseases, such as dengue fever.

Zika virus cases skyrocketed from 103 just before the quake to 1,275 confirmed cases in Ecuador 10 weeks after the disaster, with 86 percent of all new cases occurring near the Manabi epicenter.

Scientists, led by Anna Stewart-Ibarra, director of the Latin American Research Program for the Center for Global Health and Translational Science at SUNY Upstate Medical University, found that nearly 10 percent of interviewees suffered from a variety of Zika virus or dengue fever symptoms. Of those, more than 58 percent were suffering fear or anxiety.

The study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, concludes that women between 40 and 60 years old still not sleeping in their own homes three months after the quake reported the highest incidences of Zika symptoms and mental distress.

Middle-aged women shoulder the most responsibility for their families in Ecuador, the study found, with female community leaders feeling doubly responsible to care for their neighbors. These social factors, along with the environmental conditions, likely decreased the ability of their immune systems to fight off the virus.

Director Stewart-Ibarra told teleSUR: “The earthquake in Ecuador triggered PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], lowering people’s immune systems because of stress.”

She said very few researchers are “looking at how mental health and infectious diseases interact in post-disaster settings.”

She also noted that such studies, of which there are very few, are important because “we see more and more extreme natural disasters, especially climate-related natural disasters.”

Source: Telesur

December 7, 2017: Trio of Phase One Zika Vaccine Trials Show Promising Results

In early results published in the Lancet, researchers report that an investigational Zika vaccine was well-tolerated and stimulated potentially protective immune responses in three phase 1 clinical trials, one of which was conducted at Saint Louis University. More than 90 percent of study volunteers in the 3 trials who received the investigational vaccine demonstrated an immune response to Zika virus. Spread primarily by Aedes mosquitoes and also by sexual contact, Zika infection of pregnant women can put babies at risk of developing microcephaly, characterized by underdeveloped heads and brain damage, and other serious health issues. An investigational vaccine against the virus, called ZPIV (Zika Purified Inactivated Vaccine), was developed by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), in partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), both at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The three placebo-controlled, double-blind trials were designed to address different questions researchers wanted to answer about the immune responses elicited by the investigational vaccine.

The SLU study continues its enrollment, examining how three different vaccine doses compare in terms of safety and ability to stimulate an immune response. A trial conducted by WRAIR is examining the impact of priming the immune system with either a licensed yellow fever or Japanese encephalitis vaccine followed by ZPIV vaccination. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) is evaluating three dosing schedules of ZPIV.

Principal investigator of the SLU trial Sarah George, M.D., is encouraged by the study findings.

“I’m happy to see our work help make progress toward a vaccine against Zika,” said George, who is associate professor of infectious diseases, allergy, and immunology at Saint Louis University. “We need a vaccine to protect people from this emerging infectious disease that can cause microcephaly and other severe brain defects in babies.”

This work was supported in part by a cooperative agreement (W81XWH-07-2-0067) between the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc., and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). This research was also funded, in part, by NIAID.

SLU’s Center for Vaccine Development is one of nine Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units selected in 2013 by the National Institutes of Health to study vaccines that aim to protect people from infectious diseases and emerging threats. The project is funded under Contract No. HHSN272201300021I. The federal government has funded vaccine research at SLU since 1989. More information about the Zika clinical trial is available on clinicaltrials.gov.

Source: Patch.com

December 1, 2017: To Combat the Spread of Zika, A Nonprofit Is Using Drones and Sterile Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are, by far, the deadliest animals on Earth. More than 725,000 people die from mosquito-borne illnesses like malaria each year, and millions are affected by mosquito-borne illnesses, according to the World Health Organization.

Now new technology is being used to try to reduce mosquito-borne illnesses. In particular, introducing sterile male mosquitoes to a population can increase competition for female mosquitoes, eventually reducing the population by as much as 90 percent, according to researchers.

But introducing the mosquitoes to areas affected by mosquito-borne diseases can be a challenge.

“Not everybody lives next to a road. Even if roads do exist in some of these areas, they look very different when the rainy seasons hit. … And of course when it rains … you have pools of standing water and even more mosquitoes,” says Patrick Meier, executive director and co-founder of WeRobotics, a nonprofit with offices in the US and Switzerland.

“What we’re doing that nobody else has done is to make it such that we release these mosquitoes from the air, using affordable drones,” Meier says.

In partnership with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Insect Pest Control Lab in Vienna, Austria, WeRobotics is testing out the technology and hopes to put it to use in Zika hotspots in Latin America.

But releasing hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of mosquitoes comes with engineering challenges, Meier says.

“How do you take 100,00 mosquitoes, put [them] in a relatively small box and have them not kill each other?” Meier says. “You have to keep the mosquitoes in a kind of sleep state, which means you reduce the temperature within this ‘box’ between 4 and 10 degrees celsius.”

Other challenges include releasing mosquitoes in a uniform manner, Meir says. “You’re not releasing 100,000 as soon as you get to 400 feet. You’re trying to do a homogenous release over a gridded area. Remember, these mosquitoes are basically knocked out, if you’d like, or tranquilized. How do you ensure that as they’re falling from the release mechanism, they actually wake up in time before they go splat on the ground?”

WeRobotics will begin deploying these drones in the coming months, focusing on communities that are already deploying sterile mosquitoes on the ground, and providing education to locals about the project.

“This is frankly our bread and butter — training, awareness-raising, capacity-building and informing local communities can be used, and are being used, to improve their health,” Meier says.

Other methods to reduce mosquito-borne illnesses range from simple nets and vaccines to mass spraying of insecticides, but many have proved ineffective, costly, and damaging to the environment.

Source: Public Radio International

November 29, 2017: Rapid Zika Detection Test May Be Coming in 2018

Hospitals and health departments could have a new tool in 2018 to detect Zika – a test that is cheap, portable and fast.

The test involves a drop of blood, can get results in 20 minutes and doesn’t require blood be sent out to a lab. It was developed by a team of University of Central Florida researchers led by Qun Treen Huo.

Huo said the test is ideal for rural and low-income areas because it’s cheap and portable
.
“We really want to put this test for rural area that don’t have access to expensive lab facility,” Huo said. “It’s a very simple test, does a quick test, our device is portable as well.”

Nano Discovery, a spinoff biotech company out of the University of Central Florida, said the test involves gold nanoparticles that are used to detect the Zika virus in a few drops of blood. The company also manufactures the machines that do the test.

Researchers optimistically hope to have U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval and have the test on the market by mid-2018. In the future, Huo said the same technology can be used to look for other viruses, and her team has been researching it’s use for cancer screening as well.

“This basically test technology we developed is not only limited to Zika. It can be for many other infectious diseases,” Huo said.

Zika is a mild virus in adults, but can cause a myriad of birth defects in babies if a mother catches it during pregnancy. It’s primarily spread by mosquitoes but can be transmitted sexually as well.

Source: WMFE

November 28, 2017: Zika Nerve Damage May Stem from Virus Response

Nerve-related complications of Zika infection may be caused by the immune system’s response to the virus, not the virus itself, according to a new study.

Zika is spread primarily via the bite of an infected mosquito, but it may also be transmitted by blood transfusion or sexual contact. Most people who become infected don’t have any symptoms, but some develop serious neurological conditions. And an infection during pregnancy can cause devastating birth defects.

The researchers said their findings, based on experiments with mice, may help lead to new ways to treat people with Zika-related nerve complications, such as Guillain-Barre syndrome.

The syndrome can cause muscle weakness, tingling and even paralysis.

The Yale University research team found that when Zika infection spreads from the blood to the brain in mice, immune cells flood the brain. This limits the infection of brain cells, but it can also trigger paralysis.

“The immune cells that are generated by infection start attacking our own neurons,” study leader and immunobiologist Akiko Iwasaki said in a university news release. “The damage is not occurring through the virus infection, but rather the immune response to the virus.”

The findings suggest that suppressing the immune system response may be a way to treat Guillain-Barre syndrome. However, research in animals frequently doesn’t produce similar results in humans.

The study was published online this month in the journal Nature Microbiology.

Source: Web MD

September 6, 2017: Zika Virus Used to Treat Aggressive Brain Cancer

A harmful virus that can cause devastating brain damage in babies could offer up a surprising new treatment for adult brain cancer, according to US scientists.

Until now, Zika has been seen only as a global health threat – not a remedy.
But latest research shows the virus can selectively infect and kill hard-to-treat cancerous cells in adult brains.

Zika injections shrank aggressive tumours in fully grown mice, yet left other brain cells unscathed.

Human trials are still a way off, but experts believe Zika virus could potentially be injected into the brain at the same time as surgery to remove life-threatening tumours, the Journal of Experimental Medicine reports.

The virus would need to be delivered directly to where it is needed in the brain
There are many different types of brain cancer. Glioblastomas are the most common in adults and one of the trickiest to treat.

They are fast growing and diffuse, meaning they spread through the brain, making it difficult to see where the tumour ends and the healthy tissue begins.

Radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery may not be enough to remove these invasive cancers.

But the latest research, in living mice and donated human brain tissue samples, shows Zika therapy can kill cells that tend to be resistant to current treatments.

It is thought that these glioblastoma stem cells continue to grow and divide, producing new tumour cells even after aggressive medical treatment.

Different, healthy stem cells are found in abundance in baby brains, which probably explains why regular Zika can be so damaging to infants, say the researchers.

Adult brains, however, have very few stem cells. This means Zika treatment should destroy only the cancer-causing brain stem cells without causing much collateral damage.

As an extra safety precaution, the team, from Washington University School of Medicine and the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, have already begun modifying the virus to make it more tame than regular Zika.

Researcher Dr Michael Diamond said: "Once we add a few more changes, I think it’s going to be impossible for the virus to overcome them and cause disease.

“It looks like there’s a silver lining to Zika. This virus that targets cells that are very important for brain growth in babies, we could use that now to target growing tumours.”
He hopes to begin human trials within 18 months.

Using viruses to fight cancer is not a new idea, but using Zika as the weapon of choice is.
UK scientists at the University of Cambridge are beginning similar trials with Zika.

Dr Catherine Pickworth, from Cancer Research UK, said: "This promising research shows that a modified version of the Zika virus can attack brain tumour cells in the lab.
“This could one day lead to new treatments for this particularly hard to treat type of cancer.”

Source: BBC News

August 29, 2017: Hurricane Harvey Could Cause Increase in Zika Infections, Say Experts

Hurricane Harvey could ignite a surge in mosquitos capable of spreading Zika in southeast Texas, public health experts warned even as the storm was lashing the Gulf Coast over the weekend.

In the short term the storm will actually be a boon, flooding out mosquitos. But the standing water Harvey will leave behind will become their perfect breeding ground, including for Aedes aegypti mosquitos blamed for spreading the disease.

Officials are urging those returning to their homes after the storm to dump flower pots, bird baths and other containers with standing water.

“It’s been a significant part of our messaging for Zika all along and definitely will be something we’re talking about following Harvey,” said Chris Van Deusen, spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The U.S. has enjoyed a relatively Zika-free year in 2017, with just a single case of the disease being spread locally by mosquito. That case came in Hidalgo County, along the border with Mexico.

Tamaulipas, the Mexican state on the other side of the boundary from Hidalgo Country, is one of three hard-hit states in Mexico where the number of Zika cases has risen this year.

Source: The Washington Times

August 14, 2017: ASU Researcher Says He’s Developed Tobacco-Based Zika Virus Vaccine

A researcher at Arizona State University said Thursday that he has developed a tobacco plant-based vaccine for Zika virus.

Qiang Chen said the creation of the vaccine was a fairly simple process.

“I use a small part of DNA from the Zika protein [then] I put that DNA into tobacco plants,” he said. “That piece of unique DNA will direct the production of the vaccine protein.”

Once enough vaccine material is produced, it is removed from the leaf.

Chen said the tobacco-based vaccine has benefits over traditional vaccines.

“Most vaccines are based on either DNA or killed full viruses,” he said. “[For example], if you use killed virus as a vaccine – if you have an accident, potentially, you can inoculate live virus into people.”

Another issue with full-copy DNA vaccination production for Zika is called the enhancement response. Chen said the virus is very genetically similar to dengue fever.

Because it is so similar, in certain circumstances, a full-virus replica of Zika could not only stimulate an immune response for that virus, but also an immune response for dengue fever.

Chen said he chose to develop the vaccine in tobacco plants because it is simple to direct foreign proteins into them.

“Tobacco plants can grow very fast, very easily,” he said. “[They] produce a lot of leaves for vaccine production. Tobacco plants also produce a lot of seeds, so if you want to scale up production you can quickly get a large number of seeds.”

Chen’s vaccine has been successfully tested in mice and monkeys, meaning his team can apply for human clinical trials through the Food and Drug Administration.

The Centers for Disease Control said Zika – spread by infected mosquitoes – can cause underdevelopment of human infants’ heads, or microcephaly, before they’re born.

Source: KTAR News

August 11, 2017: Florida Reports Dozen More Zika Cases

Florida health officials added another 12 reported cases of the Zika virus during the past week, including the first sexually transmitted case in 2017, according to information posted on the state Department of Health website.

As of Monday morning, August 7, 2017, the state had 128 reported Zika infections this year, up from 116 reported a week earlier. Of the new total, 97 were classified as “travel related” — meaning people brought the mosquito-borne virus into Florida after being infected elsewhere — up from 88 the previous Monday.

During the past week, the Department of Health announced that a person in Pinellas County had been infected with Zika through sexual transmission. The department did not identify the person or list the person’s gender but indicated a sexual partner might have contracted the disease while traveling recently to Cuba.

The department said it does not have evidence that mosquitoes are transmitting the disease in Florida. Other cases reported this year have involved people who were exposed in 2016 and tested in 2017.

Zika is particularly dangerous to pregnant women because it can lead to severe birth defects.

Source: WUSF News

August 3, 2017: First Sexually Transmitted Zika Case of 2017 Confirmed in Pinellas County

Florida has confirmed its first sexually transmitted case of Zika for this year, health officials said.

The Florida Department of Health announced in a statement Tuesday that the case was reported in Pinellas County. A resident’s partner showed symptoms of infection by Zika, a frequently mosquito-borne virus, after a recent trip to Cuba. Both people tested positive for Zika.

“There is no evidence of ongoing transmission of Zika by mosquitoes in any area of Florida,” the department said. “It is important to remember Zika can also be transmitted sexually and to take precautions if you or your partner traveled to an area where Zika is active.”

There have been 118 Zika cases reported in Florida this year, with the majority linked to travel outside the continental United States. The locally acquired infections confirmed this year were all linked to exposure to the virus in 2016, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Zika is most commonly transmitted via infected mosquitoes; documented cases of transmission through sexual contact have been rare. Infection usually results in minor symptoms, including fever, rash, joint pain and pinkeye. However, if a woman is infected by Zika during pregnancy, the virus can cause devastating birth defects, including microcephaly.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that men diagnosed with a Zika infection wait at least six months before having unprotected sex with a female partner so that they do not infect her. Infected men who have a pregnant partner are advised to wear barrier contraception for the duration of the pregnancy.

The Food and Drug Administration does not routinely test donated sperm for Zika, but it forbids anonymous donations within six months of being diagnosed with Zika infection, traveling to an affected area or having sex with someone who may have been infected.

Source: FOX News

July 20, 2017: Scientists Plan to Trick Zika-Carrying Mosquitoes into Breeding Themselves Out of Existence

This summer, a Silicon Valley tech company will have millions of machine-raised, bacteria-infected mosquitoes packed into windowless white vans, driven inland and released into the wild — or, at least, the streets of Fresno, Calif.

And, yes, Fresno County officials are encouraging this.

It’s all part of the Debug Fresno project, which aims to cut down on the number of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, an unwelcome invasive species that arrived in California’s Central Valley in 2013. In addition to being potential carriers of the Zika, dengue fever and chikungunya viruses, the Aedes aegypti also adapted rapidly to the area’s residential neighborhoods, to the chagrin of residents and officials alike.

“It’s a terrible nuisance, a terrible biting nuisance. It’s changed the way people can enjoy their back yard and it’s a threat for disease transmission,” said Steve Mulligan, district manager for the region’s Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District. “So we’re looking for new ways to eliminate it.”

To do so, district officials have partnered with tech companies to use an approach that has gained traction in recent years. Inside a lab, millions of the mosquitoes will be infected with Wolbachia bacteria, which changes the reproductive ability of males. Afterward, only those male mosquitoes — which don’t bite — will be released to mate with unsuspecting female Aedes aegypti.

Even if the females lay eggs, those eggs will never hatch. Eventually, officials hope to reduce the population of Aedes aegypti, generation by generation, until they are eliminated from the area.

“It’s kind of contrary to what a person would think. ‘What, you’re doing what? You’re releasing mosquitoes to control mosquitoes?’ " Mulligan said. “We are releasing male mosquitoes because male mosquitoes do not bite and cannot transmit disease.”

If all this sounds like the opening of a sci-fi movie, that’s because the endeavor represents a cross-section of the health-care and technology industries. The “Debug Fresno” project is a continuation of a similar strategy that started last summer, when county officials partnered with Kentucky-based MosquitoMate to release 40,000 Wolbachia-infected male mosquitoes each week in Fresno County.

This year’s mosquitoes are being bred and distributed by Verily, a subsidiary of Alphabet that was formerly known as Google Life Sciences. Verily officials estimate that this year, they will release 1 million mosquitoes per week in Fresno County, more than 25 times last summer’s numbers. That is possible because they’ve developed ways to breed and separate male and female mosquitoes on a larger scale.

“Automated sex-sorting is a key advancement for this research,” Verily spokeswoman Kathleen Parkes said in an email. “Traditionally, mosquito sex-sorting is a very labor-intensive process. Verily has developed a system that uses computer vision algorithms to identify the sex of the mosquitoes and only let the males through.”

Unlike last year, when officials simply opened up cardboard tubes of mosquitoes at fixed points in the county, this year long white vans — emblazoned with the “Debug Fresno” logo — will drive through two neighborhoods in the cities of Fresno and Clovis to make sure the mosquitoes are evenly distributed. Verily officials anticipate that up to 20 million male mosquitoes could be released between now and the fall.

Mulligan said they don’t anticipate eliminating Aedes aegypti would have any negative effects on flora and fauna there because the invasive species is not an essential part of the natural ecosystem in Fresno County.

“Invasive species disrupt and impact the environments into which they invade,” Mulligan said. “We do not expect that reducing or eliminating the populations of Aedes aegypti would have any negative effect on the environment, nor would it harm any insect-eating animals. In fact, the eradication of Aedes aegypti from California would actually have a positive effect on the human environment and on human health.”

Scientists have studied ways to use Wolbachia bacteria to control mosquito populations since the 1980s, but a number of successful field tests have shown its effectiveness in recent years. In 2011, Australian researchers released batches of Wolbachia-infected female mosquitoes around two neighborhoods near Cairns, Queensland, and then monitored the mosquito populations there.

Their goal then had been to stop the spread of the dengue virus — “Wolbachia completely blocks the ability of dengue virus to grow in the mosquito,” Monash University researcher Scott O’Neill explained to The Washington Post’s Brian Vastag — and they found that that strain of Wolbachia had been successful in spreading through 100 percent of the population in one Cairns neighborhood and 90 percent in the other.

As Vastag reported at the time:

That’s because the bacterium is a cunning manipulator of insect reproduction. Somehow — scientists are unsure exactly how — females carrying Wolbachia reproduce more successfully than females that don’t carry it. This evolutionary strategy has been so successful that various strains of Wolbachia infect an estimated 70 percent of all insect species.

Strikingly, though, this evolutionary marvel does not naturally infect the species of mosquito that carries dengue virus, [Aedes aegypti].

So O’Neill and his colleagues set about finding a strain of Wolbachia that could infect Aedes aegypti while simultaneously protecting against dengue virus. They found that strain in their own back yard, inside Australian fruit flies.

An approach closer to the one being tried in Fresno this year was carried out last summer in southern China, where scientists released millions of Wolbachia-infected male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes on Shazai Island in an effort to stem the spread of the Zika virus. As The Post’s May-Ying Lam reported, results were “stunning,” with 99 percent of the population suppressed after a year of tests.

Though there have been no local infections of Zika or dengue reported in California, Mulligan said they want to be prepared in case someone travels back from a country where they were infected. An Aedes aegypti mosquito could easily spread the virus from one person to another, as happened in Florida and parts of Texas last year, he said.

In a video produced to educate Fresno County residents about the project, Jodi Holeman, a director with the region’s mosquito abatement district, agreed.

“Even though they’re not actively and currently transmitting disease in California, it’s our job to try to stay ahead of these diseases,” she said.

Source: The Washington Post

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