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Oxitec tackles disease-spreading mosquito with global partnership

Published on 13 October 2023

Oxitec Ltd – the leading developer of innovative biological solutions to control insect pests, with global headquarters at Milton Park – has launched its plans to initiate development of a biological Friendly™ solution for the invasive, disease-spreading Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus.

The biotech pioneer has partnered with Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation), which is funding the development programme.

It will enable development of a Friendly™ Aedes albopictus – a safe, effective, and self-limiting strain of the mosquito that results in non-biting, non-disease transmitting male mosquitoes – in Oxitec’s UK R&D facilities. This marks the first step towards delivering an urgently needed, highly effective biological solution for Aedes albopictus in the Pacific region and beyond to tackle diseases such as dengue, Chikungunya and Zika.

In addition to posing a major disease risk to billions of people, the Aedes albopictus mosquito is an aggressive daytime biter, causing major nuisance and hindering outdoor activities in many parts of the world.

Infamous for being spread globally via international shipping, car tyres and ornamental “lucky bamboo”, Aedes albopictus continues to invade new territories. Experts predict that if it continues to spread uncontrolled it will pose a disease threat to more than six billion people. 

Oxitec’s safe, sustainable and targeted biological pest control technology is ideally and uniquely suited to control this public health threat across islands in the Indo-Pacific region.

Oxitec’s Friendly™ solutions are harmless to local ecosystems, are species-specific, and are already proven to control the disease-transmitting Aedes aegypti mosquito by up to 96% in dengue-prone urban communities. The Friendly™ Aedes aegypti is now being sold to households, businesses and governments across Brazil in just-add-water devices.

Working with local communities impacted by this disease vector, CSIRO and Oxitec will work in partnership to deploy the technology in vulnerable regions once completed.

Grey Frandsen, CEO at Oxitec, commented: “We’re proud to be entering into a partnership with one of the world’s preeminent scientific institutions to take on the Asian tiger mosquito, which poses a danger to billions of people around the world.

“We’re ready to join the fight against this mosquito and we’re grateful for the support of and strong partnership with CSIRO, with whom we’re united in our commitment to deliver ground-breaking solutions to help communities most in need.”

Dr Brendan Trewin from CSIRO said: “Alongside Oxitec, we aim to develop a non-toxic, insecticide-free, and environmentally sustainable vector control tool that is safe for humans, animals, crops, and the environment. It has potential to improve the health of communities in Australia and the Pacific regions, reduce public health impacts, and limit the spread of mosquito-borne diseases within the region.”

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