Brazil's New Weapon Vs. Zika: Gamma Rays

Officials hope by sterilizing male mosquitoes they can curb spread of virus
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 23, 2016 10:07 AM CST
Brazil to Zap Zika-Carrying Bugs With Gamma Rays
This image provided by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center shows an artist's rendering of how a gamma ray burst occurs.   (AP Photo/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

With the 2016 Olympics in Rio right around the corner, Brazil is bringing in the big guns to fight Zika—specifically, a gamma ray device to sterilize the mosquitoes that carry the virus, Reuters reports. A nonprofit group will breed up to 12 million of the male insects a week in the northeastern state of Juazeiro, zap them with the irradiator soon to arrive courtesy of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and then set them free to breed with wild females, who will then lay eggs that won't produce baby bugs, per an IAEA molecular biologist.

"It's a birth control method, the equivalent of family planning for humans," he says. If the experiment goes well in towns near Juazeiro, the government could cast a wider net and release sterile mosquitoes in larger cities, possibly by drones. The irradiator has already seen success in getting rid of fruit flies on the Portuguese island of Madeira. (The pope says women can use contraception to prevent Zika pregnancies.)

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