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Vector Reduction

The Zika virus has been pinpointed as the cause of a rash of babies being born with smaller-than-usual heads in South American countries with the virus, and NPR reports that genetically modified mosquitoes may be used to combat the virus's rapid spread.

The Aedes aegypti mosquitoes carry Zika — as well as the dengue fever and chikungunya viruses — and the British company Oxitec has developed modified versions of Ae. aegypti that it says can help reduce the size of the mosquito population. These modified mosquitoes are male and when they mate with wild-type females, the females lay eggs, but the larvae don't survive to adulthood, as NPR reports.

The company says that use of its mosquitoes can lead to a 90 percent drop in population size. It adds that a trial program in the Brazilian city of Piracicaba has reduced the number of wild mosquito larvae by 82 percent.

That program, NPR says, is now being expanded.

In the US, Oxitec is seeking FDA approval to conduct a trial using its mosquitoes in Florida, where dengue fever has spread, NPR adds.

There have been a few cases of Zika reported in the US, it notes, but all appear to have been in travelers returning from abroad.