Releasing genetically modified mosquitoes could stop the Zika crisis, according to scientists at the British biotech company Oxitec. As the World Health Organisation declared a global public health emergency, these engineered mosquitoes would be the key to solving this problem once and for all and stop the suffering worldwide.
Researchers have proven that genetically modified mosquitoes help control dengue by reducing the vector aedes aegypti’s population by up to 90 percent, consequently decreasing dengue cases up to 99 percent. After the Friendly Aedes Aegypti Project, between 2015 through 2016, there has only been one dengue case in the small town of Piracicaba, near Sao Paolo, down from the recorded 133 cases in 2014 through 2015.
The mosquitoes were designed to stop the spread of the dengue virus. The chief executive of Oxitec, Hadyn Parry, is ready to even make a bigger difference because it is the same mosquitoes that carry Zika and this method would be just as effective for the Zika virus as well.
The genetically modified male mosquitoes could suppress the population by passing on a gene that would kill their offsprings before reaching adulthood. These mosquitoes were also engineered to glow in the dark so scientists would not lose sight of them.
Releasing the engineered mosquitoes has been met with controversy. Some believe that the release of the genetically modified mosquitoes could have caused the outbreak. Oxitec and many scientists insist that these speculations are unsubstantiated, describing the fears as results of unfamiliarity rather than scientific merit.
Moreover, many are concerned that killing off mosquito populations this way could affect the ecosystem. However, Anthony James, a professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at the University of California, Irvine, argued that aedes aegypti are considered as an invasive species in the Western Hemisphere and eliminating its population would bring positive effects rather than harm other species that rely on these mosquitoes for food.