These Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are genetically engineered so they can reproduce, but their offspring die young, thus limiting the spread of diseases like Zika virus, malaria and dengue fever, which are carried by these insects.
Once approved, the Oxford-based biotech firm will release its mosquitoes into American state Florida’s Key Haven area, where they hope it will kill off the local mosquito population.
Its solution has been provisionally approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, which said that the release of these GM mosquitoes will have “no significant impact” on the health of local residents or the environment. However, it is still pending a final decision in the next 30 days.
“We look forward to this proposed trial and the potential to protect people from Aedes aegypti and the diseases it spreads,” said Hadyn Parry, chief executive of Oxitec.
How the GM mosquito method works
Oxitec’s male mosquitoes have been genetically engineered to have a “kill switch”, so that their offspring die before reaching maturity.
Male mosquitoes, which do not bite or spread disease, are released up to 3 times a week into the wild, to mate with wild female Aedes aegypti so that their offspring die out, reducing the population.
Previous trials in Brazil, Panama, and the Cayman Islands have reduced the population of Aedes aegypti by more than 90 per cent – a massive improvement compared to conventional mosquito-killing methods, such as insecticides which only have a 30-50 per cent efficiency rate.
Controlling Zika virus in Brazil
Earlier this year, thousands of babies were born with shrunken heads after their mothers were bitten by zika-infected mosquitoes in Latin America. Oxitech worked with the Brazilian government to trial the same GM mosquitoes in Piracicaba, São Paulo, in an area covering up to 60,000 people.
According to Secretary of Health in Piracicaba, Pedro Mello, the trial had been a success there were plans to expand the release in the region. In fact, a previous trial in the Eldorado region brought cases of dengue down from 133 in 2014/2015 – the highest incidence in the city of Piracicaba – to just one case in 2016/2016.
Source – mweb