Science

Scientists to Unleash Genetically-Modified Mosquitos to End Malaria with "Death Sex"

By Urian , Jun 08, 2020 07:56 AM EDT

Genetically-modified or gene-hack bugs have recently been crafted by a certain UK biotech company called Oxitec with a single goal in their whole life which is to kill of or even reduce the local population of mosquitoes in general through "death sex" or basically mating with them.

Mosquitoes have become popular carriers of diseases like Zika, dengue, and also malaria which are then passed on to anyone who has been bitten by these insect carriers. While the technology has already shown certain promising results in the lab experiments, experts still warn that the scheme could possibly go horribly wrong all the way out in the wild.

Will "death sex" end malaria?

According to a certain group of both scientists and ethicists in their statement released in The Conversation, these certain strategies do hold considerable potential benefits that hundreds of millions of people would positively benefit.

However, the group argues that they are concerned that the present government oversight along with the scientific evaluation of these genetically-modified mosquitoes does not actually ensure the insect's responsible deployment.

Oxitec's own controversial scheme was already approved back in May for certain "experimental use" over in Florida and also Texas by nonother than the US Environmental Protection Agency.

The plan to kill wild females

Starting this current summer, there will be millions of new genetically-modified (GM) male mosquitoes that will be released every single week over the span of the next two years. When the hoard of lab-bred mosquitoes are then released, they will mate with the wild females and due to the "death sex", their offspring would die.

This will then create a new environment where only the female mosquito bites, meaning the male-only insects by Oxitec won't actually spread diseases to the general public. Over a period of time and with repetition, the large-scale releases of these particular modified insects, should then temporarily collapse the whole mosquito population.

This should also prevent the spread of any nasty diseases that the mosquitoes would carry and in turn save thousands of lives. The mosquito-borne illnesses just like Malaria are already rising in the southern places of the United States as climate change begins to push bug populations from South America.

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The failed experiment

Scientists are still quite concerned with the lack of oversight for these huge projects in both Florida and Texas. Over in Brazil, a very similar project actually backfired which resulted to releasing millions of these genetically-modified bugs all around the neighborhoods in Jacobina.

A few scientists genuinely believe that the project accidentally created the new super-resistant mosquitoes that have become much harder to kill compared to before. Oxitec's work is currently heavily criticized by the Friends of the Earth which is a charity that acts with the sole purpose of protecting the environment.

Previously in 2012, they said that the trials of mosquitoes must come to a halt in the absence of both comprehensive and impartial reviews on the human health, the environment, and also ethical risks.

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