Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have drawn up a plan to test a nuclear technique to curb the Aedes mosquito population as part of their assessment on the current dengue outbreak in Bangladesh.
A delegation of experts from the IAEA and WHO recently visited Dhaka and met officials from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Science and Technology to discuss the possibility of using the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), according to an IAEA article published on Monday.
The SIT is a type of insect birth control that uses radiation to sterilise male insects. These are released in large numbers to mate with wild females, which then do not produce any offspring, reducing the target insect population over time.
The experts agreed with the Bangladeshi officials on a four-year work plan that includes selection of a pilot site for the release of sterile male Aedes mosquitoes in 2021-22.
A schedule was also set for IAEA technical assistance, in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, to train staff, upgrade existing facilities to mass rear and sterilise the insects, and collect baseline data ahead of releases.
“The SIT has been successfully implemented against numerous insect pests of agricultural importance, and is now being adapted for use against mosquitoes,” said Rafael Argiles Herrero, entomologist at the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture.
Dengue cases have exceeded 38,000 in Bangladesh since January 2019, with the daily admission of over 1,500 new patients in hospitals in recent weeks. The outbreak has also caused over 40 deaths since the beginning of this year.
“Bangladesh already established a mosquito insectary in 2008 under an FAO/IAEA project to conduct basic research on the application of SIT,” said Mahfuza Khan, director and chief scientific officer at the country’s Institute of Food and Radiation Biology.
“The insectary can produce 30,000 to 40,000 mosquito larvae per week for SIT application, and the aim in the next four years is to increase this number and test the sterile male mosquitoes in semi-field and field conditions,” she added.