Stopping Zika: Mass sterilization of male mosquitoes

Story highlights

  • Billions of sterilized male mosquitoes are needed to stop population growth
  • Screwworms, Medflies and tsetse flies have been successfully controlled in the past
  • Many questions remain about how well the radiation technique will work with mosquitoes

This is part two in a four-part series about efforts to stop or slow the spread of Zika virus though the use of modified and engineered mosquitoes. See all four pieces here.

(CNN)The International Atomic Energy Agency recently announced a plan to help Brazil and other countries hard hit by the Zika virus produce "gamma-irradiated" sterile mosquitoes for mass release in those countries. Within the next few months, the agency says, it will send a cobalt-60 gamma cell irradiator to Brazil's Moscamed research center in Juazeiro.

"The irradiator would allow our facility to produce up to 12 million sterilized male Aedes aegypti mosquitos per week," said Moscamed Director Jair Virginio, "reaching up to 750,000 people in 15 municipalities ... which have been particularly hard-hit by Zika."
    The bloodsucker everyone's after is the Aedes aegypti mosquito.