Brazil specialists conducted an experiment and managed to breed in a massive factory mutant mosquitoes that will get rid of the disease-carrying insects which have spread Zika, malaria, and the West Nile virus across the American Continent.
Although some people might image that these super-mosquitoes are something like front-line soldiers, in fact, they are sex partners. According to Oxitec, a British firm which made extensive research on mosquitoes, the GM insects developed in their labs will be sent among other species including Aedes aegypti, the disease-carrying insect which is responsible for infections such as chikungunya, yellow fever, dengue, and Zika.
The females will mate with the mutant mosquitoes creating a generation of babies which will have a built-in genetical flaw that will make the insects die very quickly. Also, scientists genetically programmed the GM males to die after breeding.
Oxitec has its main factory in Piracicaba, a northwestern town of Sao Paulo, where experts can produce up to 60 million genetically modified mosquitoes every week. It is worth mentioning that this is the first factory of GM mosquitoes.
According to Hadyn Parry, Oxitec president, the company will use the factory as the Brazil hub. Until now, the only customer is the Piracicaba city, but there are other local communities interested in buying the company’s services.
Scientists conducted 5 field tests since 2011 and 2014 in the Cayman Islands, Panama, and in the state of Bahia in Brazil. Based on the statistics, the numbers of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes plummeted as only 10 percent of them remained after the GM mosquitoes had been introduced.
Anvisa health authorities in Brazil haven’t granted Oxitec a sales permit yet as there is not solid proof that the disease-carrying insects will be wiped out after the GM mosquitoes have been released, although the five field tests were a success.
Parry hopes that the factory will get Anvisa’s approval by 2017. The mayor has signed a deal with the company by funding it with $1,1 million in the following four years. The first wave will consist of 10 million genetically modified males which will be released every week in the large city that currently has around 360,000 residents.
According to recent reports, 1.4 million people got infected with dengue in Brazil this year, whereas the record was set in 2015 when 1.6 million cases were recorded.
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