Genetically modified mosquitoes to end dengue | Inquirer Technology

Genetically modified mosquitoes to end dengue

/ 04:03 AM September 14, 2011

AFP file photo

The Department of Science and Technology is considering unleashing genetically modified mosquitoes to combat the dengue fever epidemic.

In a roundtable discussion attended by at least 60 Filipino scientists on Monday, scientists from the British-based Oxford Insect Technologies (Oxitec) and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) proposed their newest technology aimed at eradicating the Aedes aegypti species of dengue-carrying mosquito.


Dr. Luke Alphey, co-founder and chief scientist of Oxitec, Dr. Anthony James, a molecular biologist and a member of NAS, and Dr. David Brown—who are all part of a team working on the genetically engineered mosquitoes—are in the country on the invitation of the DOST.


The scientists claim to have created genetically modified Aedes aegypti male mosquitoes which, if released in the wild and mated with the female of the species, can produce flightless female offspring.

“Flightless mosquitoes cannot survive in the wild and are unable to mate even in the laboratory,” Alphey said.

The number of GM mosquitoes to be released should be 10 times the number of wild male mosquitoes in a certain area, he said.

It is only the female mosquito that can transmit to humans the dengue fever, the severe flu-like illness that lasts for a week for most victims but can be lethal to others.

The result of the mating would be a crash in the mosquito population and the subsequent eradication of the mosquitoes bearing the dengue virus.

“This is the same thing we are trying to achieve when we are using insecticides,” James said.


James said eradicating the dengue-carrying mosquitoes will not disrupt the ecological balance.

“In fact, there’s a place in the world where there used to be no mosquitoes until the colonizers showed up, and that is Hawaii,” he said.

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Mosquitoes are also insignificant in the food chain as their predators prefer to feed on larger prey, said James.

TOPICS: Department of Science and Technology, genetically modified mosquitoes
TAGS: Department of Science and Technology, genetically modified mosquitoes

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