New World Screwworm

Through a series of regional projects, the IAEA assists Member States in Latin America and the Caribbean in the prevention and progressive control of the New World Screwworm (NWS). The NWS or Cochliomyia hominivorax is a cause for myiasis, a parasitic infestation of the body which affects animals and humans. During feeding, the larvae of the fly cause severe lesions in the skin of livestock, wildlife and humans. The most devastating effect is on livestock production, through mortality and reduced milk and meat yield. Although the screwworm has been eliminated from the United States, Mexico and Central America, it persists in several areas throughout South America and the Caribbean.

Conservative economic estimations consider that costs for prevention measures, losses due to animal diseases, decrease in livestock production and costs for disease epidemiological surveillance in affected countries in the South American region could be USD 3,6 billion annually, without considering the public health problem.

In its effort to address this animal and public health issue, the IAEA cooperates with the Food and Agriculture Organization through the Joint FAO/IAEA Programme of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture and the USA-Panama Commission for the Eradication and Prevention of the New World Screwworm (COPEG), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The IAEA supports the countries in the region through coordination meetings, training courses, workshops, expert missions, procurement and the elaboration of technical documents as a reference for decision-making by national authorities in the use of the sterile insect technique as part of an area-wide insect pest management approach. Several technical documents have been elaborated in the framework of the project to support national authorities in decision-making with regard to the application of the sterile insect technical as part of an integrated pest management (IPM).

Using Nuclear Science to Control Pests

For over 50 years, the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) has been successfully used around the world to tackle pests that destroy fruit and kill livestock. The method uses radiation to sterilize male flies, which are mass-produced in rearing facilities. Large numbers of sterile males are released into a target area, where they mate with wild females. No offspring are produced, and the wild fly population declines over time. Once established, this technique provides sustainable, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly insect control..

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