Genetically engineered mosquitoes nearly eradicate dengue fever-spreading bugs

| July 8, 2015

The results of a trial of genetically engineered mosquitoes intended to reduce their ability to transmit dengue fever have been published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

The mosquitoes, commonly known as “Friendly Aedes aegypti” mosquitoes in Brazil where the trial took place, were developed by a company called Oxitec.

The results of the trial showed that the numbers of the mosquito (Aedes aegypti) that spreads dengue fever, yellow fever, chikungunya, and zika virus were reduced by more than 90 percent.

“The fact that the number of Aedes aegypti adults were reduced by 95% in the treatment area confirms that the Oxitec mosquito does what it is supposed to, and that is to get rid of mosquitoes,” said Dr. Andrew McKemey, head of field operations at Oxitec. “According to published mathematical models reviewed and recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) working group on dengue, it would also reduce the number of biting mosquitoes below the disease transmission threshold. The next step is to scale up to even larger studies and run mosquito control projects on an operational basis.”

The study, which took place in the Itaberaba neighborhood of Juazeiro city in Bahia State, was led by the University of São Paulo and Moscamed, a company that specializes in environmentally friendly pest control. The treatment area included a population of approximately 1,800 people.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes Reduce Dengue Transmitters by 95 Percent

  • Katheryn Kerr

    Now look what has happened!!! Stupid sheeple!!! Babies with birth defects in Brazil due to GM mosquitoes!!! Dont you flippin see wtf is REALLY going on here?!!!

    • agscienceliterate

      Um, you have it backwards. It’s the other way around. Re-read the article. And the Zica defects are caused by a virus, not a GE mosquito. It is spread by mosquitoes. Potentially a genetically modified mosquito could prevent the spread of the virus. Please read:

      • bbbb


        • agscienceliterate

          BBBB, actually, blood will be on the hands of all of us if we just sit by and do nothing, letting millions of babies be born with hydrocephalus. Like so many 3rd world countries did with HIV, just ignoring the plight of millions of people. Brazil’s stated priority is to eradicate the particular mosquito that carries the Zika virus, since a vaccine is not yet available. Eradicating the mosquito can be done by spraying pesticides, or by hoping bats or other critters eat the mosquitoes, or by genetically engineering mosquitoes to die before they can transmit the virus. This is a serious epidemic.

          • agscienceliterate

            Correction: My autocorrect put in the wrong word. Zika virus has been causing microcephaly (small head and brain), not hydrocephaly.

        • debbiesherman2010

          Billions of dollars put in this new bug. GOAL-depopulate

    • gmoeater

      No. What is REALLY [sic] going on here, Katheryn? What do you see that health organizations, epidemiologists, and scientists have failed to see?

      • 최혁재

        then, why weren’t there any birth defects before? there were pandemic zika outbreaks reported. can anyone explain that?
        yet, there’s no information about the outcomes of gm mosquitoes. so it can never be blamed. but it really is suspicious to me though…until it is duplicated in animals infected through non gm mosquitoes, or until the genetic infos are proven to be identical to zika virus from areas with non gm mosquitoes.. i can’t cross out gm mosquitoes…

        • Farmer with a Dell

          The DNA in viruses mutates naturally all the time.

          Zika is an excellent example of why genetic mutation, spontaneous or induced by radiation or chemicals, is actually more likely to bring dangerous results than the more precise techniques of genetic engineering.

          What’s your solution to the problem, acupuncture?

          Take a reading once in a while to improve the mind:

          You have a computer, you have a keyboard, you have the internet — what’s the holdup?

          • x

            There are two recorded cases when the highly dangerous Zika virus may have been transmitted through sexual intercourse, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said.

          • 최혁재

            yes, you are right, there are many other possibilities. viruses do mutate. it is very natural. so i think you should look at the overall view of what is happening here…
            But then why did this outbreak start around the place(Juazeiro, BA Brazil to Eastwards along the river where GM mosquitoes were released), around the time (GM mosquitoes were released around or before July 2015), and with the same mosquito type (Aedes aegypti)? This all can be a coincidence, even with the fact that Zika virus has never given such an abnormal outbreak before.
            With these circumstantial evidences I think GM mosquitoes at least could have taken some part in this abnormal outbreak…

          • Farmer with a Dell

            The Aedes aegypti mosquito has always been the carrier of interest so, of course that is the species being targeted. Did it ever occur to you researchers would select those geographical regions with the highest populations of vulnerable mosquitoes to do their trials? It can be difficult enough doing census work where the subjects are plentiful, why would scientists attempt it in locations where there are few subjects to count in the first place? So, no it isn’t entirely coincidence that the virus and the scientists were both looking for the most vulnerable populations at the same time, and they’ve both (the virus and the scientists) been looking in the same places for a long time prior to this. It suggests to me the researchers might actually have known what the hell they were doing — something all too rare among all classes in our world today (thinking especially of the EU and UN just now for some reason). Finally the virus mutates and strikes, as predicted, and you are surprised and confused by it? Do you react this way every time you drive into a city and encounter traffic lights? Or when you go into an ice cream shop and they try to sell you ice cream? What were you expecting, exactly?

          • debbiesherman2010

            They were funded billions to create exactly this.

        • agscienceliterate

          Birth defects are on the rise due to Zika. You can be suspicious of the mosquitoes that have been engineered to fight dengue fever, another killer in poor areas of Brazil, but that is a huge stretch. You can jump to the conclusion that the GE mosquitoes for dengue are “causing” birth defects, but health officials and epidemiologists are way ahead of you, and know that these specific types of birth defects are caused by the Zika virus.
          “No information about the outcomes of GM mosquitoes…” The outcome is a dramatic decrease in the incidence of dengue fever.

        • Georges_Kanoute

          This is new territory for the Zika virus. It might be a case of not having acquired immunity. Or it might be an interaction with genetic factors in the newly-exposed population. These are at least two reasonable hypotheses to investigate.

          Now that I’ve done my bit, it’s your turn to explain why you think there’s reason to believe that a GM mosquito with a tTA protein-induced low survival rate released four years ago has somehow had an effect on this outbreak?

          • 최혁재

            Well, i didn’t do a proper research. I thought they were released around or before July, 2015. other facts that made me suspicious of the GM or GE mosquitoes are written above which are just circumstantial evidences.
            And about the genetic engineering, there isn’t any direct link found to this outbreak. i think it needs to be studied more… but there are many possibilities..maybe the virus might possess peptides or other products that make the virus more invasive(or maybe only the more invasive survived among its mutants)… maybe the tTA protein somehow got into the virus or to the human body…and (during the breakdown by leukocytes?) worked on the fetal nerve system in an unexpected way… these studies won’t happen without any fund… they are not money making… so i guess.. yes.. you guys are right…there is no evidence…

          • Georges_Kanoute

            So you’re admitting you’re not properly informed. Yes, that was plain to see, since you based your arguments on suggestive rehtorical questions rather than on on actual evidence.

            Now that i’ve asked to provide any evidence, as opposed to easily-answered rhetorical questions, you’ve further demonstrated your lack of understanding of the topic. First, you appear to be confusing genetic mutation in the mosquitoes that carry the virus with mutation of the virus itself. Sure a virus can mutate. It happens all the time. But what does that have to do with the insertion of self-repressing gene into mosquito DNA? Do you think gene transfer is simple? Do you think cow DNA mixes with your own every time you eat a burger? Same goes for insects and viruses. It’s even more absurd, actually, because viruses don’t even have DNA, they have RNA.

            Second, how do you suppose the tTA protein got into the human body? That would have to mean that A) surviving GM-mosquito offspring somehow produced tTA without it affecting their cell development. This is highly unlikely. Offspring of the GM mosquitos survived either because the tTA-producing gene failed to express itself or because of the tetracycline present in the environment, not because they somehow magically became immune to tTA. The only possible way for that to happen is for the mosquito offspring to inherit the tTA gene but not any of the TetO receptors from its mutant parent. Possible, but unlikely. B) Those mosquitoes would have to bite humans plenty of times. Proteins aren’t self-replicating, like viruses, such that a small infection can spread.

            Third, even if the tTA protein made it into human blood, what makes you think it can affect human foetal development? If you had bothered to use google and read up a bit before responding you’d know the answer. tTA is part of a very common GE mechanism. the other part is the TetO receptor that tTA binds to. TetO also has to be genetically engineered into the mosquito DNA. Unless those Brazilian babies have TetO receptors engineered into their DNA at strategic points that would inhibit proper cranial or CNS growth, tTA does nothing to them.

            There are perhaps other unforeseen ways in which a link could exist. But given current knowledge and evidence, such a link doesn’t appear plausible. There are other far more plausible hypotheses to explore first, and that’s what doctors and researchers are doing. Any arguments about these GM mosquitoes being behind the outbreak are based on nothing but a weak correlation (the events are after all four years and hundreds of kilometres apart) combined with people’s emotional predisposition to be wary of GMOs. Even if the correlation were stronger, 1) it does not imply causation unless you can come up with a plausible hypothesis as to how, which you clearly can’t, and 2) it can be easily explained, as user “Farmer with a Dell” has already explained to you, above.

          • 최혁재

            Okay, I didn’t expect this kind of a long answer. Thank you for that.
            First, I didn’t say the DNA could muse…maybe I didn’t write properly…
            Second, the hypotheses I’ve written above are just the ones that came out of my head because the point I wanted to make was that the circumstances mentioned above makes the GE mosquitoes suspicious but there aren’t any studies done for it. As I said at the end you are right. There is no proof, no studies done.
            Third, the tet on/off thing or any other stuffs that were done to the mosquitoes aren’t the technology that have been done for a long time. There could be plenty of effects on higher organisms other than the ones you know which are mainly found through cell units, or bacteria.
            Last, even if the GE mosquitoes didn’t directly give any effect, it is a common sense that when the population of host decreases for a certain period, virus become more invasive (or the more invasive mutants would survive)…If the release was done a few years ago like you said…and zika virus is found in the babies… then the mosquito did survive…
            So as I said, I’m not writing this to suggest any hypothesis, I’m writing this to say that ruling out GE mosquitoes doesn’t seem right. No well supported studies are done.

    • Georges_Kanoute

      What makes you think the microencephaly crisis in Brazil is related to these mosquitoes? The mosquitoes have a low survival rate and were released four years ago, long before Zika arrived to the general area (the mosquitoes were released hundreds of kilometers from where most of the Zika and microencephaly cases are happening today) and long before any of these women got pregnant. The mutation in question causes production of a specific protein that limits larval development. How did you jump from from that information to the conclusion that the GM mosquitoes caused the birth defects?

      • bd1143bc✓ᴷᵃᶠᶠᶦʳ

        The original mosquitos died but their genetic material, if any of their offspring survived is still in the wild. It’s silly of these genetic engineering people to think that their won’t be unintended consequences.

    • debbiesherman2010

      Of course they realize. Goal- DePopulation

  • theanointedone85

    Main stream media lovers follow narratives. They Don’t have capacity to do there own research. Katherine don’t waste your time. It’s headline and article that catches their eyes and bam its truth. Everyone else is a conspiring lunatic for thinking and questioning the narrative.

  • What?

    Can it be carried by fleas similar to the black plague? I was just reading on the silk road black plague that occurred there and seen that an alternate route by ship was taken, then Europe becoming infected. Mosquito bites a person they have the infection, mice in the room, fleas bite person….

  • glamourshtz

    Baaahhhaaa… Evil dystopian laugh. Stupid scientists did not consider that the 3%, and then 18% in the next generation of mosquitoes, would mutate and resist the antibiotic tetracycline. Silly humans. Now you have your shrunken heads to match the arrogance and ignorant of survival of the fittest.

    • Georges_Kanoute

      How does that actually translate into microencephaly, though? The 18% survival rate is higher than the expected 3% survival rate due to tetracycline presence, but it’s still much much lower than the 80% survival rate and thus results in a major net reduction in mosquito populations. So kindly explain logically how you got from 18% survival rate to the conclusion that this somehow increased the transmission of Zika or worsened its effects? I’m waiting.

  • wes

    Could it not be possible that since that mosquito carries the zika virus and therefore must have the capabilities of keeping it alive that whatever mutation was given to the mosquito through gene modification in this case it was a bacterium mutation designed to not allow more than 15 percent of larvae to develop properly??? Could this modification somehow affected a certain strain of the Zika virus that is now causing deformations in our own human offspring now? I am no virology expert, but it just seems suspicious at the very least

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