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Guangzhou experts pit mosquitoes against mosquitoes

2019-July-22       Source: Chinadaily.com.cn

Xi Zhiyong said on Friday he believes his research results will be fruitful, play a major role in pest control and prevent or reduce the spread of diseases in the future.

Xi Zhiyong said on Friday he believes his research results will be fruitful, play a major role in pest control and prevent or reduce the spread of diseases in the future.

Xi and his team managed to completely eradicate a population of a mosquito species in Guangdong province in two years by releasing millions of insects specially bred to be infertile.

"Using mosquitoes to eliminate mosquitoes is an efficient and environmentally friendly way to eliminate insects that might spread dengue fever, the Zika virus and other tropical diseases," said the microbiology professor from Guangzhou's Sun Yat-sen University after his thesis, Incompatible and Sterile Insect Techniques Combined Eliminate Mosquitoes, was published.

The article appeared in the academic journal Nature on Thursday and led to widespread discussion within academic circles and in the industry, according to a statement from the university on Friday.

Xi, director of the university's Laboratory of Tropical Disease Control and Prevention, a key lab under the Ministry of Education, said his team has begun to apply the research results to be used in other areas, such as agricultural pest prevention and control, with the aim of gradually reducing the use of chemical pesticides that may damage the environment.

"The article has provided a complete story on how mosquitoes eliminate mosquitoes, including from lab to field, industrial production, cost accounting, community education and other aspects, and that the technology will help bring great changes in the industry in the future," Xi told China Daily.

"We are not producing or selling only the (specially bred) mosquitoes, but in fact, they are also microbial pesticides that will become a real industry in the coming years," he said.

Lin Lifeng, deputy director of Guangdong Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said Xi's research results have great significance.

"It will help prevent and reduce the spread of dengue fever and other epidemics that are passed to people by mosquitoes in Guangdong province-a province with a population of more than 100 million," he said.

The center said hundreds of dengue fever cases are confirmed each year in the country's most populous province, known as the window of China's reform and opening-up and the southern gateway of the country.

Xi and his team, including experts from China and the United States, have started to pilot the study in which mosquitoes are used to help eradicate other mosquitoes after a special "mosquito factory" was built in a suburb of Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, several years ago.

Last year, Xi's team, in collaboration with local disease control and prevention centers, extended the release of male mosquitoes from suburban areas to the old city centers where dengue fever outbreaks have been reported to help combat the disease. More than 1 million male mosquitoes could be released in 22 hectares in the populous old city centers in just four minutes through drones.

The mosquito factory in Guangzhou, the largest of its kind in the world, can produce more than 10 million male mosquitoes a week.

And the male mosquitoes that have been infected with Wolbachia, a bacteria that exists widely in many insects, including mosquitoes, do not bite humans.

Research findings have shown that the eggs produced by female mosquitoes that mate with Wolbachia-infected male counterparts are infertile and that helps lead to reduced mosquito populations in the area.

More than 200 million such male mosquitoes produced in the mosquito factory have been released since 2016.

Editor: Monica Liu

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