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Malaysia uses biological weapon against dengue

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

Petaling Jaya | Mon, February 10, 2014 | 12:42 pm

Malaysia will step up the use of a biological agent to fight a dengue epidemic as a staggering 2,000 cases of the viral infection a week are being reported.

The agent - called Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, or BTI - is a bacterium found naturally in soils and has been used worldwide to combat mosquitoes and black flies since 1982.

"Instead of using just insecticide to kill the (adult) Aedes, we are now also fogging with a biological agent," Health Minister Dr S. Subramaniam said on Sunday, referring to the Aedes genus of mosquito responsible for transmitting dengue to humans.

This is the first time that BTI was being used on a large scale against a dengue epidemic, the minister said.

Previously, it had been dispersed manually in limited areas, The Star reported.

During the spore-forming stage of its life cycle, BTI produces a protein crystal that is toxic only to mosquito larvae and black flies.

The larvae, which usually feed on the bacterium, will die within days of consumption, as the crystals dissolve in their digestive system and liberate toxic protein molecules.

Malaysia has recorded almost 9,500 dengue cases this year up to February 2, with 17 deaths, Malay Mail online said.

The ministry had earlier released 10,000 genetically modified mosquitoes in some areas to mate with female Aedes mosquitoes to ensure that the eggs did not turn into larvae.

However, the process was halted due to the large amount of funds involved, Malay Mail said.

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