Latest in Science

Image credit:

Mosquitoes bred with suicide genes to combat disease

Sharif Sakr
04.28.14
Share
Tweet
Share
Save

Sponsored Links

With the World Cup just six weeks away, Brazilian authorities have approved the widespread, commercial release of a strain of mosquito that has been genetically reprogrammed to wipe out its own species. These Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are a major carrier of dengue fever, and bed nets are useless against them because they bite during the day. While some have experimented with using lasers and other techniques to mass-kill the disease-carrying bugs, Brazil's preferred solution begins in the lab: Male mosquitoes are given a deliberately flawed gene and then released into the wild so that they can reproduce, at which point the implanted gene rears its head and causes any offspring to die before they reach sexual maturity.

Local trials have already seen a 90 percent reduction in aegypti numbers, according to the biotech company that developed the mutant gene. Critics have raised a number of objections, however, including the fact that other mosquito species also carry dengue fever, so the potentially fatal disease won't necessarily be eradicated by this risky approach. Others have pointed out that there have only been very small trials so far, so we don't know what happens if GM females, rather than males, are accidentally released into the wild (potentially causing allergic reactions in bite victims), or if some mosquitoes somehow inherit the modified gene but don't die from it. Either way, if Mother Nature does have some sort of retribution in store, then Brazil is about to find out.

[Image credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]

Source: Oxitec
Coverage: PRI
All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
Tweet
Share
Save

Popular on Engadget

Law enforcement shuts down largest known child porn site on the dark web

Law enforcement shuts down largest known child porn site on the dark web

View
Moto G8 Plus may borrow features from higher-end phones

Moto G8 Plus may borrow features from higher-end phones

View
Google needs a sustainable phone moonshot

Google needs a sustainable phone moonshot

View
Volvo unveils the XC40 EV, its first full-electric vehicle

Volvo unveils the XC40 EV, its first full-electric vehicle

View
UK finally abandons its unworkable ‘porn block’ plan

UK finally abandons its unworkable ‘porn block’ plan

View

From around the web

Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr