15:19 GMT22 June 2021
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    The World Health Organization (WHO) said it is exploring biological mosquito control methods, including the release of genetically modified variants of the pesky insects, to combat the spread of the Zika virus, according to a statement published on the organization’s website.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The WHO has declared a global health emergency, with the mosquito-borne virus spreading internally in about 40 nations, as well as the US territory of Puerto Rico.

    "For mosquito control, innovative methods seem promising" WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation Marie-Paule Kieny wrote on Tuesday.

    "Biological approaches for example, such as the controlled release of bacteria to prevent viral replication in mosquitoes; or genetic approaches, such as the release of genetically modified mosquitoes to reduce the mosquito population, are under consideration."

    Though symptoms are usually mild and transitory in the general population, pregnant women who contract the virus are giving birth to babies suffering from a defect characterized by abnormally small heads and limited brain development.

    The WHO statement mentioned genetic and biological mosquito control as a long-term possibility. The most promising near-term strategy focuses on the quick development of a vaccine and diagnostic test kits, the statement explained.

    Fifteen pharmaceutical companies have begun developing a vaccine and large-scale trials could begin in as little as 18 months, according to the WHO.


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