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Dengue fever outbreak: Biologists are sterilising virus-carrying mosquitoes with nuclear energy

Image shows a mosquito. The Aedes aegypti mosquito is being targeted for sterilisation by Argentinian biologists in a bid to curb cases of dengue fever in the country.
Image shows a mosquito. The Aedes aegypti mosquito is being targeted for sterilisation by Argentinian biologists in a bid to curb cases of dengue fever in the country. Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By Euronews and Reuters
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Researchers at the National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) are employing atomic energy to sterilise male mosquitoes which will then be released into the wild.

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Biologists in Argentina are turning to atomic energy in a bid to curb a record-breaking outbreak of dengue that has gripped the country in recent weeks.

Over 40 people have already lost their lives in an outbreak that has already registered over 40,000 infections.

Scientists at the National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA), an Argentine government agency charged with nuclear research, have been working on the sterilisation project since 2016.

In essence, their aim is to sterilise males of the mosquitoes that carry the disease by irradiating them with atomic energy.

These male vectors of dengue are bred in the laboratory and the exposure to atomic energy produces an alteration in their DNA that sterilises them.

“They are sterilised through ionising energy and those sterile males are freed into the fields and when they meet with a wild female, their offspring aren’t viable,” Marianela Garcia Alba, a biologist at CNEA, explained.

“This way, by successive release of such males we’ll be able to reduce the population of the vector mosquito,” she added.

CNEA biologists are currently sterilising 10,000 males per week, a figure which they estimate could rise to 500,000.

The team expects to release the first batch of sterilised male mosquitoes in November.

Dengue is transmitted through the bites of aedes aegypti mosquitoes and causes symptoms including fever, eye, head, muscle and joint pain, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue.

For more on this story, watch the video in the media player above.

Video editor • Aisling Ní Chúláin

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