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Genetically modified mosquitoes could be released to counter diseases like zika and dengue fever

genetically modified mosquitoes

In order to counteract diseases such as Zika, dengue and yellow fever in the country, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the extension of an Experimental Use Permit for the release in Florida and California of more than 2 billion genetically modified mosquitoes. (EPA) approved the extension of an Experimental Use Permit for the release in Florida and California of more than 2 billion genetically modified mosquitoes.

Its release was approved after an Experimental Use Permit was granted in 2021 in the Florida Keys, with favorable results.

The biotechnology company Oxitec has developed mosquitoes of the Aedes aegypti species, but these are genetically modified mosquitoes so that the males, which do not bite, are released into the wild and mate with the females, which bite. 

According to scientists from the company dedicated to biological solutions for pest control, these genetically modified mosquitoes have proven to be effective in controlling the disease transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which has invaded communities in Florida, California and other U.S. states.

In California, since it was first detected in 2013, this mosquito has spread rapidly to more than 20 counties throughout the state, increasing the risk of transmission of dengue, chikungunya, Zika, yellow fever and other diseases, especially with the arrival of the heat and rainy season.

According to the California Department of Public Health, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are currently detected in Butte, Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Madera, Merced, Orange, Placer, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Shasta, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tulare, Ventura and Yolo counties, and their range continues to expand.

"Our team is very proud to have received another historic approval from the EPA. Given the growing health threat posed by this mosquito in the U.S., we are working to make this technology available and accessible," said Oxitec CEO Gray Frandsen.

He added that these pilot programs, which have proven effective in different climatic environments, will play an important role in controlling the disease-carrying mosquito that affects thousands of Americans each year.

It should be noted that the scientists specified that this biological control technology does not harm beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). mosquitoes kill more people than any other creature in the world.

Aedes aegypti is an invasive mosquito that can transmit viruses that cause Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever, as well as heartworm in dogs, cats and other pets. 

To date, there is no cure or vaccine for many of the diseases transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

It should be noted that climate change has increased the risks to invasive mosquito species, as Aedes aegypti can now withstand California's mild winters, and continues to be a threat year after year. 

In addition, disease-spreading mosquitoes are becoming resistant to commonly used insecticides, so new ways of dealing with them have been sought.

Oxitec's genetically modified non-biting male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes carry a self-limiting gene that prevents female offspring from surviving, allowing the production of only males. 

Only female mosquitoes bite and are capable of transmitting diseases to humans and animals, which is why they are targeted.

Thus, after genetically modified male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes emerge and mate with invasive female mosquitoes, the number of disease-transmitting females of the species is reduced.

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