(CNSNews.com) – Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said on Tuesday that Brazil was able to eliminate the Zika-virus-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito when, in the 1950s and 1960s, it made "a very aggressive attempt" to do so that included "very heavy use of DDT."
He cautioned that the means used to eradicate the mosquito then "might not be acceptable now."
The Zika virus can cause birth defects such as microcephaly.
“Now, years ago in the fifties and the sixties,” Fauci said, “Brazil itself made a very aggressive attempt to eliminate the Aedes aegypti mosquito. They did it successfully but they did it in a way that would be almost non-feasible today—very heavy use of DDT, very aggressive use going into homes, essentially, spraying in homes, cleaning up areas, things that I think the general public would not be amenable to accepting.
“So, it can be done," Fauci said. "But historically it was done in a way that might not be acceptable now."
Currently, the mosquito-borne Zika virus is spreading in South America and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warn that the mosquitoes which carry Zika will populate much of the United States this summer.
At Tuesday’s news conference, Dr. Fauci said, “The mosquito that is the predominant mosquito that spreads Zika is called Aedes aegypti. Aedes aegypti is a very difficult mosquito to control and eliminate.”
“It will require a very aggressive, concerted effort,” Fauci cautioned of attempts to eliminate the mosquitoes. “Their ability to exist and stay in places that are difficult to eliminate; mosquitoes, for example, they like to stay indoors as well as outdoors, which make the spraying, the outdoor spraying, ineffective for those mosquitoes.”
“What one would have to do is raise public awareness,” he said, “have cooperation at the community level to get people as best as they possibly can where they can to eliminate and diminish standing water of any type, as well as to push and to try to utilize environmentally friendly larvicides and insecticides.”
“Having said all of that,” he continued, “it’s still going to be very, very difficult to do.”
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released maps of the estimated range of the Aedes aegypti in the United States last month, as well as the Aedes albopictus, another mosquito that is capable of transmitting Zika. The CDC verified to CNSNews.com that the map of potential exposure includes all but 10 states in the United States.
Fauci emphasized that while Aedes albopictus has a greater estimated range in the United States than the aegypti mosquito, “overwhelmingly the dominant mosquito that spreads it is Aedes aegypti and there’s a number of reasons for that.”
“Aedes aegypti is a much different mosquito: it bites in the day, at night, it goes indoors, outdoors, it’s very difficult to eliminate, only likes to bite humans,” he explained. “The albopictus and other mosquitoes they get distracted, they bite animals, they bite a variety of other species. So when you have Zika and you have Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, the chances are overwhelming that Aedes aegypti is going to be the major factor.”
Fauci also stressed that the real concern over the Zika virus “is the association of Zika infection in a pregnant woman with congenital abnormalities, predominantly microcephaly in a variable percentage of babies born of Zika infected mothers.”
Fauci cited a small cohort study from Brazil that found that 29 percent of Zika-infected mothers had abnormalities in sonograms of their unborn children. Fauci also cited a study that found that 1 percent of Zika-infected mothers had children with birth defects.
Fauci said another cohort study, “The Zika in Pregnancy Study,” is underway and will enroll thousands of pregnant women in South America, predominantly Brazil.
“When we get the data from that study we’ll be able to answer the question of precisely what that percentage (of Zika-infected women with birth defects) is,” he said, “but today in May of 2016 we don’t know the answer.”