GMO: Suicide Mosquitoes
By Emily Stone
The Suicide Mosquitoes Start
Creating the Suicide Mosquito
Off to Work
The first test of these suicide mosquitoes was done in Cayman Islands in the Caribbean. It is very important to make sure that only males are released. If males and females were released together they would mate with each other and reduce the chances of the protein being passed to wild mosquitoes. The Oxitec male mosquitoes accounted for just under 20% of the male population and the amount larvae that had the deadly protein was 10%. The test was a success, and they moved on to putting some of the mosquitoes in Brazil. They released millions of the male Suicide Mosquitoes and now a very impressive 84% of the larvae carry the lethal protein.
The good and the bad
There is actually another way that the Oxitec scientist could have gone about decreasing the amount of mosquitoes that carry Dengue virus. It's called Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) which calls for male insects to be sterilized using radiation. The males would still have sperm and would be able to mate but the offspring wouldn't live very long. But because of the high amount of radiation the males would be very weak and females would not mate with them and that's if the males didn't die while being transported. The way that Oxitec has created doesn't harm the males used it is just an addition of a protein gene into the mosquito eggs. This way has worked really well and has reduced the amount of mosquitoes with the dengue virus significantly. The GMO also stops the worry of insects becoming resistant to pesticides.
As always there is somethings that people fear when it come to GMOs. In this instance people fear the creation of a super bug that could cause environmental and agricultural havoc. Also the insects may be able to evolve a resistance to the lethal protein or might be able to recognize and avoid insects with lethal genes. But it is much harder to be done than say pesticide resistance and can be overcome by changing the strain of DNA put into the mosquitoes.
Paoli, Julia. "Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Pave the Way for Dengue Fever Prevention." Nature.com. Nature Publishing Group, 15 Sept. 2014. Web. 26 Apr. 2015. <http://www.nature.com/scitable/blog/viruses101/are_modified_mosquitoes_the_future>.