Connect with us

Environment

£6.1m investment for Oxford firm that battles dengue fever with GM mosquitos

Published

on

A company that breeds genetically modified mosquitos to battle dengue fever has announced the completion of a £6.1m investment round.

Oxford-based Oxitec uses pioneering methods to control insect species that spread disease and damage crops, using biotechnology as a more precise and environmentally-friendly alternative to conventional pesticides. 

Its recently approved approach to controlling dengue-carrying mosquitos works by releasing a genetically modified strain of male mosquitos into the wild.

Males cannot bite humans, and therefore cannot spread the virus. When the modified males breed with females, the resulting offspring inherit genes that act like a ticking time bomb. They die before they reach adulthood, and populations decline as more sterilised males are released.

“Whereas a genetically modified crop is trying to protect the plant, for example, and give it an advantage, what we’re doing is taking the mosquito and giving it the biggest disadvantage it can possibly have. For the mosquito, it’s a dead end”, explained CEO Hadyn Parry in a recent TED talk.

Testing has revealed positive results, and many, including the Brazilian government, hope the approach can be a key weapon in the long fight against dengue.

The fever is a viral infection usually carried by aedes aegypti mosquitoes and usually found in tropical and sub-tropical climates, affecting 50-100 million people every year.

In most cases, it causes a flu-like illness and severe joint and muscle pain – from which it gets the alternative name of breakbone fever. 

However, in a small proportion of cases, the fever can develop into a potentially lethal complication called severe dengue. This is a leading cause of serious illness and death among children in some Asian and Latin American countries. 

Each year, an estimated 500,000 people require hospitalisation because of severe dengue, the majority of whom are children. About 2.5% of those affected die.

Existing Oxitec shareholders, including Oxford Capital Partners and the University of Oxford, completed the fundraising alongside private investors from around the world. Sustainability specialists Kinetix Corporate Finance advised Oxitec throughout the process. 

The firm, founded in 2002 as a spin-out from the University of Oxford, will now use the investment to develop commercial production facilities and support local recruitment, with the hope of rolling out its dengue mosquito control programs in Brazil. 

“The World Health Organisation estimates that almost half of the world’s population is now at risk from dengue, and with no specific treatment or vaccine available, effective techniques for controlling the mosquitoes that spread this potentially fatal virus are urgently needed”, Parry said in a statement.

“Oxitec’s mosquitoes represent a novel and safe approach to combating dengue, and we look forward to working with authorities around the world to make our technology available.” 

The announcement comes shortly after scientists warned that rising temperatures across Europe, caused by climate change, means an outbreak of dengue fever on the continent is “imminent.

There have already been sustained outbreaks of dengue caused by local transmissions in recent years. Cases were reported in France and Croatia in 2010 and 2012. 

Consulting climate models, researchers from Umeå University in Sweden said it is “only a matter of time” until there is a larger European outbreak.  

Photo: US Department of Agriculture via Flickr

Further reading:

Immune children help scientists fight malaria

Warming UK cities could attract mosquitoes, says new study

Triodos teams up with natural insect repellent firm for EIS investment offer

Climate change could put millions more at risk of malaria

Dengue fever outbreak ‘imminent’ in Europe because of climate change

Environment

Extra-Mile Water Conservation Efforts Amidst Shortage

Published

on

water conserving

While some states are literally flooding due to heavy rains and run-off, others are struggling to get the moisture they need. States like Arizona and California have faced water emergencies for the last few years; water conserving efforts from citizens help keep them out of trouble.

If your area is experiencing a water shortage, there are a few things you can do to go the extra mile.

Repair and Maintain Appliances

Leaks around the house – think showerheads, toilets, dishwashers, and more – lead to wasted water. Beyond that, the constant flow of water will cause water damage to your floors and walls. Have repairs done as soon as you spot any problems.

Sometimes, a leak won’t be evident until it gets bad. For that reason, make appointments to have your appliances inspected and maintained at least once per year. This will extend the life of each machine as well as nip water loss in the bud.

When your appliances are beyond repair, look into Energy Star rated replacements. They’re designed to use the least amount of water and energy possible, without compromising on effectiveness.

Only Run Dishwasher and Washer When Full

It might be easier to do a load of laundry a day rather than doing it once per week, but you’ll waste a lot more water this way. Save up your piles of clothes until you have enough to fully load the washing machine. You could also invest in a washing machine that senses the volume of water needed according to the volume of clothes.

The same thing goes with the dishwasher. Don’t push start until you’ve filled it to capacity. If you have to wash dishes, don’t run the water while you’re washing. Fill the sink or a small bowl a quarter of the way full and use this to wash your dishes.

Recycle Water in Your Yard

Growing a garden in your backyard is a great way to cut down on energy and water waste from food growers and manufacturers, but it will require a lot more water on your part. Gardens must be watered, and this often leads to waste.

You can reduce this waste by participating in water recycling. Using things like a rain barrel, pebble filtering system, and other tools, you can save thousands of gallons a year and still keep your landscaping and garden beautiful and healthy.

Landscape with Drought-Resistant Plants

Recycling water in your yard is a great way to reduce your usage, but you can do even more by reducing the amount of water required to keep your yard looking great. The best drought-resistant plants are those that are native to the area. In California, for example, succulents grow very well, and varieties of cactus do well in states like Arizona or Texas.

Install Water-Saving Features

The average American household uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water every single day. You obviously can’t cut out things like showering or using the toilet, but you can install a few water-saving tools to make your water use more efficient.

There are low-flow showerheads, toilets, and faucet aerators. You could also use automatic shut-off nozzles, shower timers, and grey water diverters. Any of these water saving devices can easily cut your water usage in half.

Research Laws and Ordinances for Your City

Dry states like California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada must create certain laws to keep the water from running out. These laws are put into practice for the benefit of everyone, but they only work if you abide by the laws.

If you live in a state where drought is common, research your state and city’s laws. They might designate one day per week that you’re allowed to water your lawn or how full you can fill a pool. Many people are not well versed in the laws set by their states, and it would mean a lot to your community if you did your part.

Continue Reading

Environment

Cyprus is the Forerunner for Ecotourism

Published

on

When I was looking for a second citizenship, I happened to see One Visa’s offer on Cyprus Citizenship by investment program. I had heard about Cyprus being a beautiful country, but I did not know much else, so I decided to start my own research about this gem of a place.

After I did some research, I discovered that Cyprus is a popular destination for tourists. Unfortunately, heavy tourism and the associated development affected villages here and there, with some communities being slowly abandoned. To avoid this from happening any further, Cyprus went into ecotourism, and today, it is the forerunner in this arena. Let’s look in further detail at ecotourism in Cyprus here.

How was it started?

It all started in 2006 with the launch of the “Cyprus Sustainable Tourism Initiative.” This program has the sole scope of promoting ecotourism developments in the tourism industry. It concentrates on those areas which require conservation and environmental safety. At the same time, it helps develop social, as well as economic statuses in the rural parts of Cyprus. Through this program, the government was able to acknowledge that ecotourism will play an essential role in the future of Cyprus, with the concept gaining momentum among tourists from all over the globe.

How to go about it?

So, now you are interested in going for an ecotourism vacation in Cyprus. How will you go about it? I would immediately say that everyone should visit the quaint Cypriot villages spread throughout the island. These communities have a smaller population, and not many tourists visit. They make for a great relaxing spot. Enjoy seeing the bustle of village life go by where simple pleasures abound. Most hamlets are linked by specific minibus tours which ferry tourists to these havens. These trips will have a regular schedule, aimed at promoting ecotourism further. Such tours will be regulated to ensure that while the villages can benefit and develop, they do not get overpopulated or overcrowded with tourists. Therefore, you can be sure to enjoy the beautiful sceneries that nature has to offer here.

If you are wondering if there are any activities to do here, my answer would be: “Yes, plenty.” You can go for some guided walks across various regions here. Here you will be able to explore the diversified natural beauty and wildlife of the area. Several agritourism activities and services are planned to open shortly. Once launched, you will be able to engage in picking olives, milking goats, and several other such events here.

What can be learned?

Although we are aware that natural resources need to be preserved, we do not always remember it in real life. When we go on tours such as these, we can realize the significance of protecting nature. Also, when more and more people visit these places, the concept of ecotourism will become popular among more people. Awareness about ecotourism is set to grow and spread throughout the world. Subsequently, sustainable tourism will gain popularity around the globe with Cyprus being the forerunner for ecotourism .

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Facebook

Trending