Mosquitoes don’t bug rich tourists on Marlon Brando’s island. Here’s why that matters

TETIAROA, French Polynesia — On this remote South Pacific atoll owned by Marlon Brando’s family, a French biologist is undertaking an ambitious experiment that could help change how we fight mosquitoes — and the diseases they spread. Hervé Bossin and his team have released more than 1 million sterile male mosquitoes since September, triggering a hundredfold drop in the mosquito population on one islet of Tetiaroa, formerly a retreat for Polynesian royalty. Mosquitoes cause more human illness than any other creature on earth, killing 800,000 children a year, on average. The biting females carry malaria, dengue, yellow fever, and — most recently — Zika, which is suspected of triggering birth d

Scientists link Zika firmly to paralysis, as patients in Tahiti know too well

Josie Kuchta TAHITI, French Polynesia — The jovial former pipe fitter still laughs with wheezing breaths, but no smile. His frozen facial muscles testify that he has not fully overcome the illness that changed his life. His ailment, called Guillain-Barré syndrome, is known for triggering temporary paralysis. But after four months in intensive care, a year in a rehab facility, his wife’s abandonment, and his inability to return to the job that carried him into the middle class, Roland Tehahe’s experience hardly seems temporary. “It’s tough,” he told STAT. Tehahe is one of 42 people in French Polynesia who contracted Guillain-Barré two years ago during a months-long outbreak of Zika, which is

About me

Cover COVID-19 

and patient safety

for USA Today.

Former long-time health/science

journalist, contributing to The

New York Times, The Washington Post, 

Scientific, and others. Journalism educator and book author.


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