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Virus-blocking insects taking over Vietnamese island

Field trial tests mosquitoes that may stop the spread of dengue

5:00pm, November 19, 2013

INSECT HIJACK  On Vietnam’s Tri Nyugen Island dengue-blocking mosquitoes now make up around 65 percent of the island’s mosquito population, a survey finds.

WASHINGTON — A tiny island off Vietnam may soon be the first place on Earth where people are completely shielded from dengue, a potentially lethal viral disease that causes painful fevers.

The virus, which threatens a third of the world’s population, spreads by mosquito bites. In April, researchers released dengue-blocking mosquitoes on Tri Nguyen Island, home to around 3,200 people and — for now — dengue. This month, in the latest survey, the modified bugs made up about 65 percent of the island’s mosquito population. If the introduced mosquitoes reach 80 percent, people on the island will be protected from the virus, the researchers calculate.

“At the moment, it’s all looking really positive,” said lead researcher Scott O’Neill of Monash University in Clayton, Australia. O’Neill

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