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The challenge

Stopping the spread of Asian tiger mosquitoes to Australia

CSIRO-led surveys search mosquito breeding sites, such as stagnant water.

CSIRO-led surveys search mosquito breeding sites, such as stagnant water.

Mosquitoes in the Indo-Pacific spread diseases like malaria, dengue, and Japanese encephalitis and cause over 23,000 deaths each year. Globally, dengue alone infects more than 390 million people every year and threatens billions more across the tropics. Climate change, rapid urbanisation, trade and human movement are exacerbating the problem, particularly in developing countries across the Indo-Pacific.

The Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) is the most invasive mosquito species in the world, a major spreader of human viral diseases such as dengue, Zika and chikungunya, and represents a significant daytime nuisance biter, hence its nickname 'the BBQ stopper'. It is wide-spread across the Indo-Pacific region but is yet to establish on the Australian mainland. If it were to do so, the Australian population and sections of the economy would be at risk from these deadly mosquito-borne diseases.

Our response

A safe, effective and self-limiting strain

[The sound of a mosquito can be heard and then a banging sound, and a blue screen appears with text: Whack!]

[Image changes to show new text: The Deadliest Creature In the World]

Narrator: You might think of mosquitoes as just a little annoying, but did you know they're actually the deadliest creature in the world?

[Image changes to show a close view of a mosquito sucking blood from an arm, and text appears: Every year mosquitoes claim over 1 million lives]

Every year, mosquitoes claim over 1,000,000 lives 

[Image changes to show a revolving world globe, and symbols appear around the globe of a skull, a person, a money bag, a syringe and a cross symbol]

and overwhelm healthcare systems across the globe, mainly in the poorest countries.

[Image changes to show a symbol of a female mosquito on the left attached by a line to a person and blood can be shown flowing along the line and into the mosquito, and text appears: Female, Human Blood]

It is only the female mosquito that bites humans to draw blood, 

[Image changes to show symbols of diseases on a series of microscope slides, and text appears: Zika, West Nile, Malaria, Chikungunya, Dengue]

leaving behind a wide range of diseases.

[Image changes to show a mosquito sucking blood at the centre, and dotted lines appear hitting the outer circle around the mosquito and bouncing off]

Even worse, they're becoming more resistant to insecticides,

[Image changes to show a symbol of a handshake above text: A Better Solution]

So CSIRO has partnered with Oxy Tech to deploy a better solution. 

[Image changes to show a symbol of a male mosquito, and text appears: Friendly male mosquito, Self-Limiting Gene]

Oxy Tech have developed the friendly male mosquito, which contains a self-limiting gene that prevents any female offspring from surviving.

[Images move through to show a mosquito symbol inside a factory, a box of eggs on the right of the factory, and a plane on the right flying towards a pinpoint dot on the far right, and text appears: Produced in Factory, Delivered Through Mail]

Eggs are produced in a factory and can be delivered to remote communities through the post.

[Image changes to show water droplets being added to the box symbol, and then the image shows mosquitoes emerging from the box, and a DNA strand appears on the left, and text appears: Water added, Males only]
Once there, water is added and the friendly male mosquitoes emerge to mate, 

[Image changes to show a crossed symbol of an Asian Tiger Mosquito on the left, and a Yellow Fever Mosquito on the right, and text appears: Asian Tiger Mosquito, Yellow Fever Mosquito, 90%]

reducing the future female mosquito population and suppressing the targeted disease carrying species by more than 90%.

[Image changes to show a crossed symbol of a pesticide bottle, a ticked symbol of a light bulb with leaves inside, and a ticked box symbol, and text appears: Pesticide Free, Environmentally Friendly, Highly Scalable]

It's pesticide free, environmentally friendly, cost effective and highly scalable, 

[Image changes to show a shield with a tick inside, and symbols appear around the shield of a person, a money bag, and a world globe]

safeguarding people and the planet 

[Image changes to show symbols of people in circles all interconnected with lines, and then the image changes to show a letter, and text appears on the letter: Defeating mosquito borne disease through the male]

while promoting economic activity by building indigenous capability in pest management business models, defeating mosquito borne disease through the male.

[Image changes to show a cloud of mosquitoes flying over the letter, and then the image changes to show a blue screen, and text appears: Join the Fight, Stop the Bite, Find out More About Investment Opportunities, Contact, Mary.Frey@CSIRO.AU]

Join the fight. Stop the bite.

[Music plays and the image changes to show the CSIRO logo, and text appears: CSIRO, Australia’s National Science Agency]

Mosquitoes - A Better Solution

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CSIRO has entered into a collaboration agreement with Oxitec Ltd (UK) to develop an Asian tiger mosquito solution to protect Australian communities from this deadly threat.

This project will see CSIRO and Oxitec develop a highly targeted, non-toxic, insecticide-free, and environmentally sustainable method for controlling invasive Asian tiger mosquito populations.

CSIRO aims to improve the health of communities in Australia and the Pacific region.

CSIRO aims to improve the health of communities in Australia and the Pacific region.

Only female mosquitoes bite and are capable of transmitting disease. So, reducing the female's ability to successfully reproduce is the key to controlling Asian tiger mosquito populations. We aim to do that by creating a safe, effective and self-limiting strain of male Asian tiger mosquito that – when it mates with wild Asian tiger mosquito females – produces non-biting, non-disease transmitting males. A self-liming gene prevents female offspring from surviving long enough to reproduce.

Regular releases of these males into a wild population would prevent the production of wild female mosquitoes, resulting in suppression of the target population by greater than 90 per cent.

The self-limiting mosquitoes are safe for humans, animals, crops, and the environment. They leave no long-term trace as their genes are only passed on for a few generations. Halting releases of self-limiting males will result in the wild mosquito population returning to normal after around 10 weeks.

The insects will also carry a fluorescent marker gene which, when viewed under special light filters, will allow us to distinguish the self-limiting insects from local invasive counterparts. This improves efficiency and simplifies monitoring.

Through this work CSIRO aims to improve the health of communities in Australia and the Pacific region, reduce public health impacts, develop more sustainable pest control, empower local communities, and limit the spread of invasive mosquitoes and the diseases they transmit, within the region.

CSIRO operates within strict guidelines and government regulations around gene technology research. This ensures the safety of the community and the environment, and that rigorous scientific practices are followed.

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