a new experience in florida

After much controversy, a study on the release of mosquitoes into the wild Aedes aegypti genetically engineered has just been carried out in the Florida Keys archipelago. The first results have been announced and seem encouraging, but many issues remain to be clarified in order to measure the impact of this measure on the transmission of diseases through this vector.

That mosquitoes feed on the nectar of flowers and plants, but the female needs the proteins contained in the blood to allow her eggs to mature. It is therefore the only one to have mouthparts that allow it to suck a host’s blood.

Out of species stab the man Aedes aegypti is a mosquito that lives in temperate, tropical and subtropical zones. It is also a carrier of various viral diseases such as Dengue feverthat Zikathat chikungunya and the yellow fever. Biting by day and adapting very well to urban conditions, it poses a public health hazard, especially as some arbovirusessuch as dengue fever, have increased their incidence rate more than eight-fold over the past two decades (WHO). Given the relative failure of traditional vector control methods, new measures based on the genetic engineering are under development.

Transgenic mosquitoes to reduce the vector population

This is how Oxitec Ltd, a UK-based company specializing in the development of biological solutions, opposes insects vectors of diseases has just conducted an experiment based on total release Air from mosquitoes Aedes aegypti genetically modified.

Since 2013 Oxitec Ltd has been developing these mosquito strains which a ashamed modified, called “self-limiting”, preventing the female from surviving. In this way, released males can mate with wild females and produce only male offspring, which in turn can pass on the limiting gene. The principle is to reduce the mosquito population.

Since April 2021, researchers from this company have had modified mosquito eggs in properties of thearchipelago of the Keys, Fla. Traps for collecting eggs and adults have been scattered. On a collection of 22,000 eggs, the results show that the movement zones are identical in the modified mosquitoes against wild mosquitoes and breeding females could not survive. In addition, the modified gene can remain in the wild population for two to three months.

A controversial initiative

Although this technology represents an alternative in vector control, it is still controversial. It has not been proven to date that this study can have any real impact on public health. Further studies on the transmission of arboviruses would be necessary, there is no evidence that the reduction in the mosquito population has an impact on the transmission of diseases.

After 10 years of struggling for public acceptance and despite endorsement by the FKMCD (Florida Keys Mosquito Control District) and from the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), the initiative is widely discussed, especially since according to a identical study performed in Brazil, the impact of crossing tribes transgenic and wildlife on disease transmission and other vector control measures remains unknown.

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