Will Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Be Helpful In Lowering Disease Spread Rate

genetically modified mosquitoes 
Credit: Nature

Genetically modified mosquitoes have been released in Florida. Many diseases spread due to bites of mosquitoes. Some of these diseases can be lethal, and others leave the sufferer with a much weaker body. The aim of releasing mosquitoes with altered genetic makeup is to reduce the spread rate of diseases that are transmitted from mosquitoes, reports Nature.

The field of genetic modification has opened a new pathway for improving quality of life. The formulation of genetically modified mosquitoes helps humans to control the spread of diseases and improve their lives.

Who Begins the Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Program?

Oxitec is a British-based biotechnology firm that worked with the FKMCD to design and practically follow the genetically modified mosquito program. FKMCD is the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District and is working on a research program to reduce the number of mosquito species responsible for spreading diseases.

On May 1st, in the Florida Keys, after approval for experimental use by the Environmental Protection Agency, genetically modified mosquitoes were deployed in the region.

What Genetic Modifications are Made?

Female Aedes aegypti spread diseases like dengue fever, yellow fever, Zika virus from one person to another through their bites. Observing the activities of female mosquitoes creation of genetically modified male mosquitoes occurs through following the program.

Male genetically modified mosquitoes created by Oxitec have a gene capable of killing premature female offspring. The gene continues to pass on when male offspring mate. As a result, a female species that spread diseases by biting will reduce in number, and male mosquitoes that do not spread diseases or bites will continue to live.

How Genetically Modified Male Mosquitoes Created?

Meredith Fensom is the head of global public affairs at Oxitec. He explained the procedure following which production of genetically modified mosquitoes occurs. She mentioned that they use small boxes for keeping mosquito eggs. In another small box contains food for mosquitoes, and its lid is open. Then half of the box with both small boxes is filled with water, and a lid covers its opening.

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After monitoring and waiting for a week or two, production of non-biting male mosquitoes occurs. You can see mosquitoes within boxes via the naked eye.

Tracking and Identifying Genetically Modified Male Mosquitoes

Male genetically modified mosquitoes are designed to emit a fluorescent glow. Thus, identifying genetically modified male mosquitoes will be easy once you capture a group of mosquitoes for research.

Once genetically modified species of mosquitoes are identified, conducting further research on them becomes easy. Doing research and taking measures to reduce the spread of diseases is essential. The reason for that is traditional methods are no longer effective in controlling the situation.

Company Remarks, Community Concerns, and Public Opinion

Many people are not in favor of introducing genetically modified mosquitoes. Authorities have their concerns about the long-term effects of the program. However, since the program has approval for experimental purposes, about 12000 mosquitoes will be initially introduced in the Florida Keys. The number is likely to increase to tens of millions by the end of this year.

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People do not like the idea of genetically modified mosquitoes roaming around them. But the company favors the research program and aims to continue it. According to the company, similar projects have considerable success in other areas, including Brazil, Panama, Cayman Islands, and Malaysia.

Barry Warry, head of the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition, is against the program as it puts the community at greater risk because of many unknown effects. Doug Mader explains that, so far, no side effects have occurred, and it is safe to run the program for a better future.

Adeena Tariq Lari
The author is a graduate of dental surgery from the Dow University Health Sciences, Karachi. She has an academic background in content writing as well as English literature, giving her an edge in the field. Adeena is always curious about physical and mental health. She is always passionate about research and delivering high-quality reliable content to users.