Millions of genetically engineered mosquitoes are here to protect us

M. Kaufman,  MASHABLE,  2022.

Aedes aegypti almost certainly traveled to California in cargo, like many invasive species do. The species, which flourishes in warmer climes, has colonized places like Los Angeles County, and is expected to multiply and spread in these temperate regions as the climate continuously warms. The invasive species has already thrived in the Gulf states for centuries. Crucially, Aedes aegypti aren’t simply an itchy annoyance (the females voraciously bite for blood meals): The mosquitoes spread viral diseases like dengue fever, yellow fever, Zika, among others. Future outbreaks in new and old parts of the U.S. have a realistic, unsettling potential. To prepare, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently allowed for the carefully regulated, experimental release of over 2.4 million genetically-modified mosquitoes in California and Florida over the next couple of years. It’s a pilot project intended to prove that Aedes aegypti populations can be repressed by genetically-altered mosquitoes. The modified mosquitoes are non-biting males carrying a manipulated gene that, after mating, kills the insects’ offspring. The biotechnology company Oxitec devised this mosquito-control strategy, and will run the tests.

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