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Are Altered Mosquitoes a Public Health Project, or a Business?

by Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology Review
October 27th, 2016

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Nonprofits and corporations are in a race to fight dengue and Zika.

The fight against dengue and Zika in Latin America is turning into a contest between mosquito-altering technologies, and between profits and public health.

On Wednesday, Eliminate Dengue, a nonprofit based in Australia, said it had received $18 million from the U.S. government and other donors to rapidly launch citywide releases in Rio de Janeiro and in a suburb of Medellin, Colombia, of mosquitoes infected with a bacteria that makes the species Aedes aegypti unable to transmit the two viruses.

The scope of these Latin tests has leaped ahead of for-profit efforts by Oxitec, which has field-tested genetically modified mosquitoes in Brazil, the Cayman Islands, and Florida.

The contrasting efforts show how public health organizations, and some governments, are betting heavily on modifications that could be exceptionally cheap because they actually spread among mosquitoes as they reproduce, in effect dispersing an antidote far and wide from the point of release.

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