First Genetically Modified Mosquitos

A Biotech firm in the United States, Oxitech, recently launched the most controversial field test of Genetically Modified mosquitos in Florida.

What are these Genetically Modified Mosquitos?

The Aedes aegypti mosquitos make up only 4% of total mosquito population in Florida. However, they are responsible for all diseases transmitted by mosquitos such as zika, chikungunya, dengue and yellow fever.

Naturally, the male Aedes aegypti mosquitos do not bite. Only the females bite and spread diseases. The researchers have now bioengineered the male Aedes aegypti mosquitos. The bioengineered male Aedes aegypti carries a gene that passes to their offsprings and kills the female progeny alone in early larval stages. The male offspring will not die and will become the carriers of the gene and will pass on to the future generations. As more and more female offspring dies, the population should dwindle.

What is the plan?

The researchers of Oxitech had placed the boxes containing the bioengineered mosquito eggs at six locations in April 2021. The first males are expected to hatch in May 2021. In the next twelve weeks, more than 12,000 males are to exit from these boxes every week. In the second phase, 20 million bioengineered mosquitos are to emerge over a period of sixteen weeks.

The Genetically modified mosquitos carry a gene that makes them glow when exposed to a particular type of light. This will help in identifying the Genetically Modified mosquitos.

Way Forward

The residents of Florida were fighting against this field test over a decade now. And therefore, Oxitech launched the test trials of the mosquitos in Panama, Brazil, Malaysia, and Cayman Islands.

The Environment Protection Agency has recently approved to conduct the trials in Florida. Based on the success of the trials, it is to be extended to the entire US.

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