GMO mosquitoes will have sex with their cousins… then kill them
The mosquito species Aedes aegypti carries a number of viruses and diseases, including dengue fever, chikungunya, Zika and yellow fever.
Now scientists in Brazil are preparing to release mutant bugs that will mate with female mosquitos and spawn babies with a genetic flaw that causes them to die off quickly.
British biotech firm Oxitec is behind the genetically modified (GM) insects, that will be produced in a factory before being released into the wild.
The GM mosquito, also known as OX513A, was specially designed to help control mosquito-borne diseases.
“What we do here is eliminate the mosquitoes that transmit the virus,” said Oxitec biologist Karla Tepedino.
“By eliminating the vector, we eliminate the disease.”
Oxitec president Hadyn Parry said a factory in Piracicaba, northwest of Sao Paulo, can produce up to 60 million GM mosquitoes a week.
“We can use this as a hub for Brazil,” Parry said of the “first and biggest” factory of GM mosquitoes.
Trials of GM bugs in Panama and the Cayman Islands between 2011 and 2014 saw the Aedes aegypti population drop by 90 percent, according to Oxitec.
The firm is currently waiting for permission from health authorities to release the bugs.
Some are critical of the so-called transgenic organisms, however, especially beyond the confines of field trials.
The World Health Organization (WHO) agreed the technology “has demonstrated the ability to reduce the [mosquito] population in small-scale field trials,” but said there is still “an absence of data on epidemiological impact."