Innovation That Matters

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Deploying drones to reduce cases of dengue fever

Health & Wellbeing

By releasing sterilised mosquitoes, one Brazilian startup is hoping to stop the spread of this disease

Spotted: Dengue viruses, which are spread by the bites of Aedes mosquitoes, affect up to 400 million people each year and are responsible for around 40,000 annual deaths. This is where BirdView, a startup based in São Manuel, Brazil, comes in.

In collaboration with Embrapa (the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation) and with the support of the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) Research Program on Biodiversity Characterization, Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable Use (BIOTA), BirdView has devised a solution that uses repurposed crop-spraying technology to help reduce the populations of harmful, dengue-carrying mosquitoes.

BirdView’s modular drone technology releases sterilised males of the mosquito Aedes aegypti – which can transmit Dengue fever, along with other dangerous communicable diseases like yellow fever and Zika virus. The sterile males are released periodically into urban areas to mate with females. Because they produce no offspring and compete with non-sterile members of the same species, their presence has the effect of reducing populations. What is more, the males themselves do not bite and therefore are at no risk of spreading the disease themselves.

This method of using sterilised insects to combat disease is not new, but the use of drones enables a step change in its efficiency. According to BirdView co-founder Ricardo Machado, a single small drone can release 17,000 insects in one 10-minute flight, meaning it’s possible to reduce 90 per cent of the Aedes aegypti population and new cases of the disease in under a month.

Drone technology makes it possible to rapidly map and travel across large areas, which is proving useful for the health industry. Springwise has also spotted drones that can quickly deliver medical supplies, as well as technology that helps map mosquito breeding grounds to prevent the spread of malaria.

Written By: Archie Cox


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