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Puerto Rico Research Trust and CDC join in fight against Zika

By on September 27, 2016

SAN JUAN – The Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust (PRSTRT) announced the establishment of the Vector Control Unit of Puerto Rico in collaboration with the Center for Diseases Control & Prevention (CDC) to carry out an integrated vector management program to reduce the number of aedes aegypti mosquitoes and develop monitoring and control processes, surveillance systems, and a communications strategy.

The initiative goes hand in hand with the Trust’s mission to invest, facilitate and build capacities to advance Puerto Rico’s economy, science, technology and its industrial base.

An adult female mosquito is seen under a microscope at the Sun Yat-Sen University-Michigan University Joint Center of Vector Control for Tropical Disease on June 21, 2016 in Guangzhou, China. Considered the world's largest mosquito factory, the laboratory raises millions of male mosquitos for research that could prove key to the race to prevent the spread of Zika virus. The lab's mosquitos are infected with a strain of Wolbachia pipientis, a common bacterium shown to inhibit Zika and related viruses including dengue fever. Researchers release the infected mosquitos at nearby Shazai island to mate with wild females who then inherit the Wolbachia bacterium which prevents the proper fertilization of her eggs. The results so far are hopeful: After a year of research and field trials on the island, the lab claims there is 99% suppression of the population of Aedes albopictus or Asia tiger mosquito, the type known to carry Zika virus. Researchers believe if their method proves successful, it could be applied on a wider scale to eradicate virus-carrying mosquitos in Zika-affected areas around the world. The project is an international non-profit collaboration lead by Professor Xi Zhiyong, director of the Sun Yat-Sen University-Michigan University Joint Center of Vector Control for Tropical Disease with support from various levels of China's government and other organizations. (Kevin Frayer / Getty Images)

An adult female mosquito is seen under a microscope at the Sun Yat-Sen University-Michigan University Joint Center of Vector Control for Tropical Disease on June 21, 2016 in Guangzhou, China.  (Kevin Frayer / Getty Images)

Earlier this year, the ‘Brain Trust for Tropical Diseases Research & Prevention,’ one of the PRSTRT’s programs, at its second meeting coordinated a technical workshop on vector control (mosquitoes and other insects). Forty-seven epidemiologists and experts in tropical diseases including experts from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), discussed and proposed potential strategies and solutions for the reduction and eventual elimination of aedes aegypti, according to a statement.

They agreed that one of the major steps to achieve the goal of controlling mosquitoes and other insects was the creation of an autonomous entity responsible for the integrated management of vector control. This type of vector control unit exists in many cities and counties stateside and other countries.

In June, CDC Director Thomas Frieden and Gov. Alejandro García Padilla signed a memorandum of understanding that supported the creation of the unit vectors of Puerto Rico. The executive order issued by the governor’s office subsequently established the legal basis for its creation and designates the PRSTRT as the entity in charge of the development of this unit, the statement said.

The aedes aegypti mosquito is responsible for dengue, chikungunya and Zika viruses.

“This Vector Control Unit will work collaboratively with community groups, municipalities, government agencies and different professional organizations to implement an integrated strategy that will include mobilization and community participation, development of technical infrastructure and information systems for monitoring and control mosquitoes that would facilitate their reduction,” the Trust said.

Lucy Crespo, CEO of the Trust, also announced that the Vector Control Unit will soon begin recruiting professionals in the areas of entomology, biology, chemistry, computing and communications to help implement the program.

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