The U.N. atomic agency said on Tuesday that rendering male mosquitoes infertile by exposing them to nuclear radiation could help reduce populations of the insect carrying the Zika virus
What could possible go wrong?
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the so-called Sterile Insect Technology (SIT) can help tackle the outbreak which has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO). IAEA experts are set to meet with Brazilian officials on February, 16, Reuters reported
Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador are among other states that have also requested the technology from the UN atomic agency.
“If Brazil released a huge number of sterile males, it would take a few months to reduce the population,” IAEA Deputy Director General Aldo Malavasi told reporters on Tuesday, adding that other methods of fighting the dangerous insects should not be off the table.
The method involves exposing laboratory-bred male mosquitoes to nuclear radiation, and making their sperm sterile before their release into the wild to mate with the females. Mosquito eggs from such copulation never hatch, helping reduce populations of the insect.
“It’s family planning for insects,” Jorge Hendrichs, head of the Insect Pest Control Section at the IAEA, said.
SIT has already been tested in several countries. According to Konstantinos Bourtzis of the IAEA’s insect pest control laboratory, in Italy it helped to reduce mosquito populations by around 80 percent in several months; in China mosquitoes have been defeated 100 percent.