Brazil is planning to fight the Zika virus by zapping millions of male mosquitoes with gamma rays to sterilise them and stop the spread of the virus linked to thousands of birth defects. Called an irradiator, the device has been used to control fruit flies on the Portuguese island of Madeira. The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Monday it will pay to ship the device to Juazeiro, in the northeastern state of Bahia, as soon as the Brazilian government issues an import permit.

“It’s a birth control method, the equivalent of family planning for humans,” said Kostas Bourtzis, a molecular biologist with the IAEA’s insect pest control laboratory.  Brazil is scrambling to eradicate the Aedes mosquito that has caused an epidemic of dengue and more recently an outbreak of Zika, a virus associated with an alarming surge in cases of babies born with abnormally small heads. The new epidemic threatens to scare visitors away from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in August. A Brazilian non-profit organisation called Moscamed will breed up to 12 million male mosquitoes a week and then sterilise them with the cobalt-60 irradiator, produced by Canadian company MDS Nordion, said Dr Bourtzis.  READ MORE