Chinese researchers are using radiation treatment to combat malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases. Home to more than 1.3 billion people, China recently eradicated the deadly disease and has turned its attention to assisting other malaria-affected countries, particularly those in Africa.
Developed by several prominent researchers and scientists affiliated with the Nuclear Technology Research and Development Centre at the Atomic Energy Authority of China (CAEA), the new anti-malaria techniques employ sophisticated radiation treatments to sterilise male mosquitoes. The sterile males, now incapable of reproduction, are then released into the wild population.
While speaking with the Shenzhen Special Zone Daily, Wu Zhongdao, director of CAEA, said the innovative new malaria eradication process was a good example of green nuclear activity, with lasting benefits such as being able to save countless lives with little to no impact on fragile ecological systems and presenting no threat to natural predators of the mosquitoes.
According to Wu, CAEA’s mosquito control method was the only biomedical technology available capable of controlling and eradicating mosquito populations in target region.
In addition to their research efforts, the group, with assistance from Sun Yat-sen University, have established a complex where male mosquitoes are farmed, sterilized and introduced into the wild population.
According to state-owned media, nearly 50 million mosquitoes are processed at the farm every week and, with malaria all but eliminated from the Chinese mainland, China is now looking to contribute to nations still struggling to control the disease. As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), malaria kills more than 700 000 people annually.
Sun Yat-sen University confirmed that it is setting up anti-mosquito demonstrations in other regions such as Macau, Hong Kong and Guangdong.
Zhong Dongjing, a research associate at CAEA, recently visited Johannesburg, South Africa, to promote and provide education on the radiation treatment method. Zhong believes that if applied in Africa, the morbidity rate could drop significantly on the continent.
China’s efforts to eradicate malaria, particularly in Africa where it is estimated that nearly 90% of global malaria-related deaths occur, have been widely recognised.
According to The Gates Foundation, Chinese-made long-lasting insecticidal mosquito nets have prevented up to 68% percent of all malaria-related deaths on the African continent, between 2000 and 2015.
Also, the Chinese 1-3-7 method is also being adapted for African contexts. The life-saving system relies on cases being reported within a day, local investigations being conducted within three days of the case report and ensuring targeted control measures are introduced within seven days.
The Gates Foundation reported that the WHO is looking to scale up the 1-3-7 method and implement it in high-risk regions like Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Zambia.