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From 2013 to 2015, an English biotech company released millions of genetically modified mosquitoes into neighborhoods in Jacobina, Brazil, in an effort to reduce the number of native disease-carrying mosquitoes. But unexpectedly, some of the gene-edited mosquitoes passed on their genes to the native insects, fueling concerns that they created a more robust hybrid species, according to new findings.
Considered the world's deadliest animal, mosquitoes spread a plethora of diseases, including Zika virus, dengue fever, yellow fever and West Nile virus.
World - Disease - Transmitters - Biotech - Company
To try to rid the world of some of these disease transmitters, a biotech company called Oxitec released around 450,000 genetically modified male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes into Jacobina each week for 27 months. These mosquitoes were altered such that they carried a "lethal gene."
Once released, these ticking bombs were supposed to flit along and mate with females (the sex that bites humans) and then die, but not before they passed their lethal genes to similarly doomed offspring. In the lab, scientists had found that about 3% of the females that mated with the genetically modified males would produce offspring. But even the small number of offspring that survived were weak and unable to produce offspring of their own.
Group - Researchers - Oxitec - Questions - Method
But now, a group of researchers not involved with Oxitec is raising questions as to whether this method went as planned. This method has successfully reduced native mosquito populations in Brazil by up to 85%, the researchers wrote.
They took genetic samples of the native population of mosquitoes in Brazil six, 12 and 27 to 30 months after the company released the genetically modified mosquitoes.
They found that some of the genes from the genetically modified...
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