An Australian led scientific team armed with a squadron of Aussie Mozzies engineered to stop the spread of the Zika Virus are giving new hope to residents of Brazil on the eve of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
To learn more about the Aussie Mozzie and their important research, please visit eliminatedengue.com
In a Sunday Night exclusive team leader Simon Kutcher reveals that initial tests in the laboratory and in the neighbourhoods, or favela’s, of Rio had revealed the Australian solution was stopping the ability of Zika carrying mosquitos to spread the disease.
“It’s a fantastic achievement, not just for Australia but for science in-in general,” Simon told Sunday Night’s Denham Hitchcock.
Last year the Zika Virus triggered world-wide alarm when the link was discovered between the virus and a surge in babies born in Brazil with abnormally small heads.
There are nearly 1,500 confirmed cases of the birth defect, called Microcephaly.
For this report Denham visits a hospital in Rio where pregnant women spend anxious hours waiting to learn if their unborn children have contracted Microcephaly.
“It's very odd for a virus to be playing this type of a role, to be having this type of an effect on human beings,” Simon said.
“The thing with Zika now is that there's so much about it that we don't understand.”
For more than a decade Simon and his team have been developing ways to fight mosquitos and the disease they spread. In Cairns and Townsville they developed a unique approach to halt the spread of the deadly Dengue Fever by using mosquitos to fight the disease.
They discovered that by injecting a naturally occurring bacteria called Wolbachia into the mosquitos they were unable to spread the fever.
When they put the Zika Virus into their Wolbachia carrying mosquitos they were also no longer spread the disease. Earlier this year the approach was put to the test in a Rio favela where it was revealed that the wild mosquitos they mated with were also unable to pass on Zika.
“We were- ridiculously excited,” Simon explained.
“To date there's been no disease transmission in that site since we've finished releases five months ago,” said Simon.
“So people in the neighbouring community they're asking ‘when are you coming to us when are you coming to us we want these mosquitoes.’”
Simon and his team are expanding the program throughout Rio. It’s expected it will take up to two years to cover the whole city Zika resistant Mosquitos.
“Used in conjunction with other control methods we hope that this plays a pretty big role in reducing the risk of transmission of these diseases. “