Biotech Updates

GM Mosquitoes Deployed to Control Asia's Dengue Fever

February 18, 2011

During the past decade, dengue has become a very dangerous disease in the urban and semi-urban areas of tropical and subtropical countries of Asia and Africa. About 2.5 billion people are at risk with the disease which is manifested by flu-like symptoms at its early stage, to the lethal haemorrhagic fever. There is no vaccine to treat the disease and the control of the vector mosquitoes is seen to be the best option.

Through genetic modification (GM), researchers at the Oxford biotechnology company Oxitec were able to develop mosquitoes that contain a gene that kills the progeny insects at the larval stage. GM male mosquitoes that do not consume human blood mate with wild female mosquitoes and will produce unviable larvae that die before adulthood.

An initial field trial carried out in the Cayman Island last year, where about 300 million GM male mosquitoes were released, resulted to a decrease by 80% of the mosquito vector Aedes aegypti. In Malaysia, under the supervision of the Malaysian Institute of Medical Research, 6,000 male GM mosquitoes have been released in 21 December and was successfully completed in 5 January. The scientists hope to conduct bigger trials to test the technology further on its impact in the spread of the dengue virus.

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