Wednesday
January 27
2016

Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Join the Fight to Stop Zika Virus

The rapid spread of the Zika virus has raised interest in a British company that has developed a genetically modified mosquito. Oxitec has produced a genetically engineered line of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the mosquito that carries dengue fever and chikungunya. Those tropical diseases have become common in Latin America and are now showing up in Florida.

Aedes aegypti also carries Zika, a disease whose symptoms include fever, like dengue. It has also been linked to a birth defect, microcephaly in children born to women infected with Zika.

In Brazil, in the wake of mounting concern over Zika, Oxitec has announced it is expanding a program to release genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in Piracicaba, a city about 100 miles northwest of Sao Paulo.

The company breeds and releases into the wild male mosquitoes that don’t produce viable offspring. When females mate with the GMO males, they lay eggs that hatch but the larvae die before adulthood. Oxitec says trials conducted in Brazil and other countries over the past decade show releasing bioengineered male mosquitoes can reduce the wild Aedes aegyptipopulation by 90 percent.

Source: NPR (link opens in a new window)

Categories
Health Care
Tags
global health, health care, infectious diseases, zika