OXFORD, England, July 19, 2016 /PRNewswire/ --
Oxitec and Piracicaba City Hall today start the release of Friendly™ Aedes mosquitoes in downtown Piracicaba, Brazil. São Judas is the first central neighbourhood to receive the mosquito that fights the primary vector of dengue, Zika and chikungunya. A contract for the expansion of the project was signed in late May and will benefit 10 other neighbourhoods as well. Overall, the 11 neighbourhoods host an estimated population of 60,000 residents in an area of 12.5 km2.
"The results obtained so far show that Friendly™ Aedes works and is able to control a serious public health issue that has been affecting the health of Brazilians for decades. We are investing in the expansion of Friendly™ Aedes into the downtown area because, besides working, it is an innovative, sustainable and environmentally friendly tool. I am sure that, by having Friendly™ Aedes, Piracicaba will be a reference point in the fight against dengue fever, Zika and chikungunya across Brazil and across the planet," said Pedro Mello, Piracicaba City Hall's Secretary of Health.
"The Friendly™ Aedes project in the central region will help protect the health of at least 60,000 people. After São Judas, we will begin the treatment of the 10 other neighbourhoods before the end of 2016. We hope to see the first results after 3 to 6 months using Friendly™ Aedes. With this expansion, we reach a new level of operation, helping an increasing number of people and showing that Friendly™ Aedes can be used at any scale," said Glen Slade, Oxitec do Brasil's director.
The neighbourhoods listed along with São Judas for this phase are Centro, Cidade Alta, Cidade Jardim, Clube de Campo, Jardim Monumento, Nova Piracicaba, Nhô Quim, Parque da Rua do Porto, São Dimas and Vila Rezende.
The release of Friendly™ Aedes begins after more than seven weeks of public engagement work in which Oxitec's technicians, supported by the Secretary of Health, explained to Piracicaba's citizens what Friendly™ Aedes is and how it works. An advertising campaign was published in newspapers, billboards and bus door posters in the city. The campaign will proceed for the following months along with radio spots and an information kiosk at Piracicaba's largest shopping mall.
"In our work with the population we also explain why the Friendly™ Aedes is safe and that it has already been approved for use all over Brazil", said Guilherme Trivellato, Friendly™ Aedes Project Manager in Piracicaba. Mr. Trivellato continued, "The Friendly™ Aedes is a male mosquito, unable to bite and transmit diseases. The one who bites is the female, which needs the blood to mature its eggs."
The public support for the Friendly™ Aedes project has been strong. A survey conducted by the CW7 Market Research Institute in early June 2016 shows that 97.6% of Piracicaba's citizens support the use of innovative tools to fight dengue, Zika and chikungunya, and 88.3% support the use of Friendly™ Aedes.
According to Pedro Mello, Secretary of Health, "The project in CECAP/Eldorado is a success, but it is important to remember that Friendly™ Aedes doesn't act by itself. It is of key importance that the population keeps eliminating breeding spots, cleaning their houses and following the guidelines of the City Hall to avoid the proliferation of Aedes aegypti, the main vector of Zika, dengue fever and chikungunya."
All three of these arboviruses that are primarily transmitted to humans by Aedes aegypti can lead to a number of neurological disorders including acute myelitis, meningoencephalitis, and Guillain-Barré syndrome.
Outcomes and extension in CECAP/Eldorado
Besides expanding the project into the downtown area, Oxitec has extended the project duration for one more year in CECAP/Eldorado, the neighbourhood where the technology has been deployed since April 2015. In that area, preliminary results of the Friendly™ Aedes project show an 82% reduction in wild Aedes aegypti larvae population, compared to a non-treated area.
In the 2015/2016 dengue year, the number of dengue cases registered in CECAP/Eldorado dropped by 91%, in comparison with dengue year 2014/2015. According to data from the city's Epidemiological Surveillance service, only 12 cases were registered in the 2015/2016 year, compared to 133 cases in the preceding period.
How Friendly™ Aedes works
Oxitec has been working in Aedes aegypti control for more than a decade. It is a pioneer in the use of a biological method to suppress wild populations of this dangerous mosquito species through the release of Friendly™ Aedes males, which don't bite and don't transmit disease. When released, these males search for wild females to mate, and their offspring inherit a self-limiting gene that makes them die before reaching functional adulthood. Friendly™ Aedes' offspring also inherit a fluorescent marker that makes them easy to identify in the laboratory. This allows tracking and measuring at a level never before achieved, making effectiveness assessment and monitoring more accurate throughout the whole Friendly™ Aedes deployment programme.
Unlike other approaches, Friendly™ Aedes mosquitoes don't leave any ecological footprint. Friendly™ Aedes die along with their offspring, so that their presence doesn't linger in the environment.
Oxitec is a pioneer in using genetic engineering to control insect pests that spread disease and damage crops, and was founded in 2002 as a spinout from Oxford University (UK). Oxitec is a subsidiary of Intrexon Corporation (NYSE: XON), which engineers biology to help solve some of the world's biggest problems. Follow us on Twitter at @Oxitec.
SOURCE Oxitec Ltd