Imagine a dark cloud of mosquitoes flying over your neighborhood, invading your home privacy and biting you in the most uncomfortable places. This might transcend the limits of your imagination and become reality for the community living in Florida Keys and it’s frightening the people.
British researchers are awaiting FDA approval for setting loose millions and millions of genetically modified mosquitoes in the residential district. Relax, it’s not some horror conspiracy, because experts believe the mosquitoes will act as treatment for two of the most dreadful and lethal viral diseases: dengue fever and chikungunya.
Even though documented cases are still rare, the illnesses are gaining territory over the U.S. On a global level, each year brings reports of nearly 50 million people contracting the dengue fever each year, 2.5 percent of which never recuperate. On the other hand, chikungunya, a fever which cause immense joint pains, is growing in the Caribbean, with over a million people suffering from it last year.
According to the experts, there are no known cures or available vaccines with the ability of treating these diseases, both caused by the bite of the female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Most of the attempts of creating insecticides which would kill the deadly mosquitoes have failed, due to their ability of evolving and adapting over time, becoming resistant to four of the six bug sprays which used to kill them at first.
Oxitec, a British biotech company, claims to have found a solution: releasing male modified mosquitoes which will annihilate the lethal female ones after mating. The GMO insects contain various foreign DNAs which act as poison for the mosquito larvae before they reach maturity. The desired result is killing the offspring and thus reducing the population of dangerous mosquitoes.
The first location where Oxitec plans to release the insects which cannot transmit the fatal viruses is in the neighborhood of Key Haven, Florida. Residents of the district are fearful of the GMO mosquito invasion, doubting the successful rate of the experiment. Some of the citizens fail to see the purpose of the invasion, since outbreaks of dengue and chikungunya haven’t happened for years in the area. They blame Oxitec for trying to fix an inexistent problem, considering that there is no real risk or people suffering.
However, Oxitec still plans to launch the project this very spring, awaiting confirmation from the FDA to support eradication of the disease through bug fights.
Image Source: WP TV