In a World-First, Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Are Hatching in the US


Mosquito eggs placed in the Florida Keys are about to hatch tens of thousands of genetically altered mosquitos, the first such release of “synthetic” insects in the world, according to an initial report from Scientific American. Pilot program for genetically modified mosquitoes could see millions more released this year. The biotechnology firm called Oxitec delivered the modified mosquito eggs late in April as part of a federally-endorsed experiment to study the use of genetic engineering, as opposed to insecticides, to control the populations of illness-spreading mosquitoes. This project targets one specific species of mosquito called Aedes aegypti, known to carry Zika, chikungunya, yellow fever, dengue, and other possibly deadly diseases. And some of these diseases have been on the rise in Florida. The new genetic contribution given to the mosquitoes will be deadly to many future offspring, with males altered to carry a gene causing female offspring to become dependent on the antibiotic called tetracycline — which is a death sentence for the female mosquitoes. After several generations, there won’t be enough female mosquitoes of the species to maintain population numbers, putting a ceiling on them. But this is a temporary measure, since the genetically modified male mosquitoes will eventually all die.

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