The battle against the Zika virus, which can cause birth defects and paralysis, has been taken to the source.
The deadliest creatures on Earth — mosquitoes — kill 725,000 people every year by passing on malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever and other diseases. Now the insects are blamed for spreading Zika, infecting 3 million to 4 million people across Latin America in the last year.
Conventional mosquito control efforts involve spraying pesticides where the insects breed. But mosquitoes have developed resistance to many pesticides, and the spray means other helpful bugs die. The World Health Organization says that traditional pesticides have had no significant impact on slowing other mosquito-borne diseases.
A St. Louis startup biotech company says it has another solution. Forrest Innovations of Creve Coeur plans to breed and release sterile mosquitoes to prevent reproduction and eventually reduce their population. Their first target: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which has seen the world’s largest Zika outbreaks and will host the upcoming Summer Olympics.
“If we stop the mosquito, we can stop Zika, West Nile or any other viruses we might see in the next five years,” said Nitzan Paldi, Forrest’s CEO. Israel-based Forrest Innovations moved its American headquarters to the Bio Research and Development Growth Park at the Danforth Plant Science Center last year.
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