Jamaica to undertake mosquito sterilisation pilot project

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Come next year, the Ministry of Health and Wellness will be embarking on a pilot for the Sterilised Insect Technique (SIT), as part of efforts to minimise mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue.

Portfolio Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, says the initiative will be spearheaded by the Mosquito Control Research Unit, which has been established in conjunction with the University of the West Indies (UWI).

The technique is an environmentally friendly pest-control method involving mass-rearing and sterilisation, via radiation, of target pests, such as the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

He explained that the process also involves systematic area-wide release of the sterile males by air, over defined areas, resulting in no fertilisation when they mate with wild females, thereby leading to a decline in the mosquito population.

The minister was speaking at a Pan American Health Organization PAHO workshop at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston yesterday.

Tufton said Jamaica has had a dengue threshold that has been classified as an outbreak for the better part of 2019, noting that this is “not that normal”.

He contended that Jamaica, like the rest of the Caribbean, must figure out how to deal with the prevalence of mosquitoes and their increasingly aggressive nature.

“We all have that issue… and because we’re a tourism destination, it is even more important. So [based on] the links between the tourism and domestic population, it threatens our industry, our primary foreign exchange earner; primary job creation activities; [and] it threatens our domestic life in terms of the dengue issue and our response to that,” Tufton said.

Director of the ministry’s Vector Control Programme, Dr Sherine Huntley Jones, told JIS News that Jamaica is partnering with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to explore the use of SIT as part of the country’s integrated vector management programme.

She noted that “Jamaica is the only Caribbean country that will be piloting the SIT”.

Meanwhile, Dr Huntley Jones said the ministry has commenced the process of rearing mosquitoes, and standardising the requisite procedures and techniques.

“We’re also conducting surveillance in the pilot communities, because we have to be able to estimate the wild population to be able to match that with the one that we’re going to be releasing. So we have been doing extensive surveillance in the areas selected and we have been working on our inventory,” she added.

The two-day PAHO Workshop, titled ‘Project Concepts on Health and Climate Change – Green Climate Fund’, brings together stakeholders from across the Caribbean and representatives of the Green Climate Fund to discuss regional project concepts on climate action for the health sector.