Genetically modified mosquitoes released in Cayman
(CP): Scientists have released genetically modified mosquitoes in an experiment to fight dengue fever in the Cayman Islands, British experts said Thursday. It is the first time genetically altered mosquitoes have been set loose in the wild, after years of laboratory experiments and hypothetical calculations. But while scientists believe the trial could lead to a breakthrough in stopping the disease, critics argue the mutant mosquitoes might wreak havoc on the environment. Researchers at Oxitec Limited, an Oxford-based company, created sterile male mosquitoes by manipulating the insects' DNA.
Scientists in the Cayman Islands released three million mutant male mosquitoes to mate with wild female mosquitoes of the same species. That meant they wouldn't be able to produce any offspring and lower the population. Only female mosquitoes bite humans and spread diseases.
From May to October, scientists released batches of genetically mutated male mosquitoes in cages three times a week in a 16-hectare area. By August, mosquito numbers in that region dropped by 80 per cent compared with a neighbouring area where no sterile male mosquitoes were released.
"This test in the Cayman Islands could be a big step forward," said Andrew Read, a professor of biology and entomology at Pennsylvania State University, who was not involved in the project. "Anything that could selectively remove insects transmitting really nasty diseases would be very helpful," he said.
CNS Note: We have contacted the MCRU to ask for more details on this project.
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