Expansion of Oxitec’s vector control solution in Brazil
Intrexon Corporation, a leader in synthetic biology, has announced that its subsidiary Oxitec and Piracicaba City Hall have expanded the ‘Friendly Aedes aegypti Project’ in Piracicaba, Brazil following strong results for controlling the Ae. aegypti mosquito population, the primary vector for dengue, chikungunya and Zika virus outbreaks around the world. In preparation of this growing program and to meet increasing demand for its proprietary vector control solution, Oxitec is initiating a new mosquito production facility in Piracicaba that will have capacity to protect over 300,000 people.
“We are delighted Piracicaba is encouraged by our strong results and expanding the program. Our new facility will support the roll out of our groundbreaking vector-control across the heart of the city and beyond,” said Oxitec CEO Hadyn Parry. “As the principal source for the fastest growing vector-borne infection in the world in Dengue Fever, as well as the increasingly challenging Zika virus, controlling the Aedes aegypti population provides the best defense against these serious diseases for which there are no cures.”
Following approval by Brazil’s National Biosafety Committee (CTNBio) for releases throughout the country, Piracicaba’s CECAP/Eldorado district became the world’s first municipality to partner directly with Oxitec and in April 2015 started releasing its self-limiting mosquitoes whose offspring do not survive. By the end of the calendar year, results had already indicated a reduction in wild mosquito larvae by 82%. Oxitec’s efficacy trials across Brazil, Panama and the Cayman Islands all resulted in a greater than 90% suppression of the wild Ae. aegypti mosquito population – an unprecedented level of control.
Based on the positive results achieved to date, the ‘Friendly Aedes aegypti Project’ in CECAP/Eldorado district covering 5,000 people has been extended for another year. Additionally Oxitec and Piracicaba have signed a letter of intent to expand the project to an area of 35,000-60,000 residents. This geographic region includes the city’s center and was chosen due to the large flow of people commuting between it and surrounding neighborhoods which may contribute to the spread of infestations and infections.
According to Mayor Gabriel Ferrato, “The city of Piracicaba has always sought innovative solutions to serious problems. In the case of Aedes aegypti, we looked for the tool that seemed most appropriate to help in the tough battle against this mosquito that transmits dengue, Zika and chikungunya. Based on the results presented today, we decided to extend the project in CECAP/Eldorado district for another year and also signed a record of intent to expand the project to the central area of Piracicaba. This will bring to the city a new Oxitec factory to meet demand for years to come and help protect the public’s health with this clean and innovative technology.”
Like many invasive insect species, Ae. aegypti’s territory is expanding as are the diseases it spreads, including dengue, chikungunya and Zika virus, which collectively impact over 100 countries and approximately 400 million people globally each year. Today Brazil has the highest reported incidence of dengue in the Western Hemisphere, and with both chikungunya and Zika virus having entered the country in 2014 and 2015 respectively, the Ae. aegypti mosquito has become an increasing health risk. As a result, Brazil’s Ministry of Health spent over 1.2 billion reals last year and allocated an additional 500 million reals for states and municipalities in January 2016 to combat the mosquito.
As per the recent New England Journal of Medicine publication titled “Zika Virus in the Americas — Yet Another Arbovirus Threat”, Brazil is not alone. Authors Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., and David M. Morens, M.D., from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases noted, “The explosive pandemic of Zika virus infection occurring throughout South America, Central America, and the Caribbean and potentially threatening the United States is the most recent of four unexpected arrivals of important arthropod-borne viral diseases in the Western Hemisphere over the past 20 years.”
Samuel Broder, M.D., SVP and Head of Intrexon’s Health Sector commented, “As a vector that transmits a number of serious diseases, the Aedes aegypti mosquito poses a major threat to public health and the economic welfare of nations. Brazil has been hard hit by dengue and the situation there has been aggravated by the recent introduction of Zika virus infections leading to a startling increase in the number of children being born with microcephaly.” Dr. Broder continued, “Through the responsible engineering of biology, we demonstrate a new paradigm of species-specific vector control resulting in dramatic reductions of dangerous mosquitoes, without persistence or harm to the ecosystem, representing a major scientific, environmental and clinical advance.”
Story source: Intrexon press release, 19 Jan 2016