Oxitec, a company spun off from Oxford University, uses a genetic engineering approach. Offspring of their GM male [mosquitoes] live through the larval stage but die as pupae, before reaching adulthood.
In the latest study, the research group – which includes scientists from Imperial College London and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine – released batches of GM mosquitoes in 2009 in an area of the Cayman Islands where Aedes aegypti are common, and dengue sometimes present.
A proportion of the eggs collected from the study area in subsequent weeks carried the introduced gene, meaning the biotech mosquitoes had mated successfully.
Areas to think about:
- Genetically modifying mosquitoes to reduce the size of the local population holds potential to reduce diseases spread by that population. Apart from dengue fever, what are some other diseases spread by a mosquito vector?
- What are some of the risks of introducing a genetically modified mosquito into the local population? How can these risks be adequately addressed?