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HomeNuclearNews StorySterile Insect Technique Used to Supress Mosquito Disease Vectors in Florida

Sterile Insect Technique Used to Supress Mosquito Disease Vectors in Florida

The SIT pilot project, which was initiated n the coastal city of Fort Myers, has already been tested out on Captiva Island in Florida, around 30 miles away, during a successful pilot project between 2020 and 2022. Male mosquitoes were mass-reared and sterilized before being released to mate with wild females. At the peak of releases, approximately 400 000 sterile males were released per week in Captiva Island. The releases led to a significant reduction of the population in the first year, 2020, and complete suppression in 2021 and 2022. Scientists were able to compare ecological indexes between Sanibel Island (the control area) and Captiva Island, where the sterile mosquitoes were released. Rachel Morreale, Manager of the Applied Science and Technologies Department at LCMCD, stated “it was remarkable to see the impacts that our sterile male releases had on the population of Ae. aegypti on Captiva.” 

Hurricane Ian devastated both Captiva and Sanibel islands completely in September 2022, making it impossible to access by car, and putting an end to the pilot project.

The damage caused was so significant that LCMCD determined that the best course of action would be to move the release programme to a new area on the mainland. Using lessons learned from the pilot project on Captiva Island, LCMCD collected baseline data to better inform their releases of sterile male Ae. Aegypti in Fort Myers, which was initiated in February 2024. While the move to this new area was sooner than initially planned, the pilot project on Captiva Island allowed LCMCD to validate SIT as a component of an integrated mosquito management operation for the County. Using the knowledge gained from mass-rearing, releases, and fieldwork, LCMCD is hopeful to have similar successful outcomes in Fort Myers and provide relief and protection to local residents.

According to David Hoel, Executive Director of LCMCD, “the unique attributes of this programme and technical expertise provided to us by the IAEA is enabling LCMCD to gain a foothold in suppression of this mosquito which is difficult at best to control by conventional mosquito control techniques and shows great promise for future prevention of mosquito-borne disease threat in Lee County, Florida.”

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