Mutant Mosquitoes in Brazil Unleashed to Wipe Out Their Disease-Carrying Kin
The answer to mosquito-borne illnesses? Perhaps even more mosquitoes.
According to a report from Phys.Org, Brazil scientists are working on unleashing around a million genetically modified mosquitoes to try and wipe out their cousins that are carrying and spreading tropical diseases across the country.
British firm Oxitec, which developed the new breed mosquitoes, will acclimate with the ordinary species including Aedes aegypti, which brings with it different diseases that have plagued Brazil, such as Zika, dengue, yellow fever, and chikungunya.
The method of these factory-bred species is simple. They are expected to mate with females of regular mosquitoes, then promptly die. The resulting spawn will carry with it a genetic flaw that will have them die quickly as well. It's a straightforward way that has the public hoping for a drop in occurrences of the disease along with the drop in mosquito population.
For the first wave, 10 million of these factory-bred mosquitoes are going to be released every week in the city of Piracicaba.
Oxitec president Hadyn Parry calls their Piracicaba factory the "first and biggest" factory for genetically modified mosquitoes, equipped to produce 60 million mutants every week. The company counts the city as their first and only Brazilian client, but they're already in the process of discussing their technology with other municipalities and states.
"This is the only place where we have a factory like this," Parry explained. "We can use this as a hub for Brazil."
After all, their success could only encourage other cities to seek out their help. Oxitec's five field tests between 2011 and 2014 saw the Aedes aegypti population drop an impressive 90 percent after the release of their mutant mosquitoes.
However, the company does not have a sales permit from health authorities of Brazil's Anvisa yet. It might also be important to note that there have been no epidemiological studies that confirm the decrease in mosquito-related diseases with Oxitec's mosquitoes.
There is great upside in managing the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, but there is also controversy in these type of developments, according to a previous report from Nature World News. Many scientists urge colleagues to exercise extreme caution in meddling with natural phenomenon.