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Nuclear science to fight sleeping sickness

The International Atomic Energy Agency International Atomic Energy Agency: see Atomic Energy Agency, International.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

International organization officially founded in 1957 to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
 on Friday announced an agreement to help African nations battle the tsetse fly tsetse fly (tsĕt`sē), name for any of several bloodsucking African flies of the genus Glossina, and in the same family as the housefly. , the main carrier of parasites that causes sleeping sickness with its bites.

The IAEA IAEA International Atomic Energy Agency. , which has been working on the problem with African countries for 30 years, can make available a Sterile Insect Technique Sterile insect technique is a method of biological control, whereby millions of sterile insects are released. The released insects are normally male as it is the female that causes the damage, usually by laying eggs in the crop, or, in the case of mosquitoes, taking a bloodmeal  (SIT), a nuclear-based pest control technology that is often described as "biological birth control for insects", according to the agency's website.

The IAEA signed a memorandum of understanding on Wednesday with the African Union, extending cooperation in a range of domains. Work on sleeping sickness follows an effective trial in Zanzibar in the late 1990s.

Sleeping sickness, or trypanosomosis in animals, is a deadly disease found in 35 African countries, where it kills 400,000 people a year, along with some three million head of cattle.

Apart from the cost in lives, the disease is seen as a major obstacle to development, causing an estimated loss in earnings of about four billion dollars (2.7 billion euros) a year.

"In SIT-supported pest suppression and prevention campaigns, millions of sterilized male insects are released into targeted areas. They mate with wild females in the field, but no offspring are produced. Eventually, the pest population is suppressed and steadily reduced over time," the IAEA explained.

Medical cooperation is part of the brief of the IAEA, which is based in Vienna and is responsible for promoting peaceful uses of atomic energy.
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Author:AFP
Publication:AFP Global Edition
Date:Nov 27, 2009
Words:238
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