Game-changer machine to eradicate mosquitoes, treat burns coming 2023
Research scientist at International Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences Johann Antoine says the multi-purpose gamma irradiation technology will help to improve the agricultural and medical industry in Jamaica.

LEADERS in the science and technology sector are confident that the multi-purpose gamma irradiation technology, which is expected to arrive in the island next year, will be a game changer.

"The equipment is purchased. What really happened to us was COVID-19 and the whole world slowed down as we all know, for two years. But I am hoping for the latter part of next year, it will be well on its way," said Charles Grant, director general at International Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences (ICENS).

Grant was among several officials in the science and technology sector who guided journalists and tertiary students on an open day and media tour of ICENS at The University of the West Indies, Mona on Tuesday.

Research scientist at ICENS Johann Antoine told the Jamaica Observer that gamma irradiation technology — a tool used for sterilisation, radiotherapy, and nuclear energy — will help in reducing diseases, and improve the agricultural and medical industry in Jamaica.

"We are going to use that for the sterile insect technique to raise male insects that are pests and then to sterilise in an effort to lower the population of these pests. So, let's say its mosquitoes, which is our first focus, you are lowering the population of mosquitoes so there will be less dengue, Zika virus and chikungunya," he said.

"We are just waiting on the delivery of the actual instrument and as soon as we do that, we connect with the Ministry of Health and Wellness who have an insectary. They are going to supply the male mosquitoes and we will irradiate," he added.

Antoine said that the multi-purpose tool will also be used to sterilise skin grafts for burn victims and crop mutation.

"The irradiator will create beneficial traits in crops such as drought resistance and disease resistance. So there is a direct relationship with agriculture and we are doing that in connection with the Scientific Research Council [SRC] so that we can offer better crops —crops that will have to face that climate change adaptation that we will have to face so that Jamaica can remain food secure," he added, noting that nuclear technology and power generation are also being explored.

Chairman at SRC Dr Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr, who said he is looking forward to the different services the gamma irradiation technology will offer, said, "All of those things are going to have some sort Ne atom impact on Jamaica in terms of being able to enable existing technologies, and sectors to become more productive."

"It is all well and good for us to be able to keep on swatting flies, or turning over standing water objects to prevent the spread of mosquitoes but there are technologies that train people to do more than that."

— Brittny Hutchinson

BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON Observer staff reporter hutchinsonb@jamaicaobserver.com

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