Panama Says ‘GO’ to GM Mosquito Evaluation
OXFORD, England, January 28, 2014 /PRNewswire/ –
Panama has now approved the next phase of evaluation for Oxitec’s sterile mosquitoes
as a novel tool to combat the dengue mosquito.
The announcement comes weeks after Panama’s Health Minister, Javier Diaz, declared
that the country was experiencing a ‘dengue epidemic’. Concern over Panama’s growing
number of cases has highlighted the need for new, more effective ways of controlling the
dengue mosquito, Aedes aegypti, which transmits the disease.
Following a recommendation from Panama’s National Biosafety Committee, and formal
approval from the Ministries of Agricultural Development and Commerce and Industry, an
open-field evaluation of Oxitec’s mosquitoes will be conducted by the Gorgas Institute- a
world-leader in developing advanced approaches for controlling disease-carrying
mosquitoes. Oxitec will provide technical support to the project.
Nestor Sosa, Director of the institute, said:
“Dengue fever is a growing concern in Panama, and the tools we have for controlling
the dengue mosquito are limited and increasingly ineffective. There is a real need to
explore additional, more effective technologies for combatting this pest and tackling the
The evaluation will begin this spring in a residential suburb of the Arraijan
District, west of Panama City and is expected to run for several months. In previous
evaluations of Oxitec’s mosquitoes, dengue mosquito populations in the Cayman Islands and
in Brazil have been suppressed by over 90% in the area of release. The Arraijan District
suffers from a high incidence of dengue fever, with dengue cases in Panama as a whole
tripling between 2012 and 2013. Extensive community education and engagement will be an
integral part of the evaluation.
Dr Sosa added:
“Oxitec’s approach has already shown great promise. It’s a technology that is
completely specific to the dengue mosquito we are targeting, and by helping to reduce our
reliance on chemical pesticides, it could also be beneficial for the environment.”
“We’ve worked closely with Oxitec and with local communities here in Panama to bring
this project to the evaluation stage, and I’m delighted that we’re now able to take this
next step. People in Panama know as well as anyone the toll that dengue fever can exact on
a community: this exciting new technology may offer real hope for a future free from
About dengue fever
Dengue is a debilitating disease spread by Aedes mosquitoes: primarily by the ‘dengue
mosquito’, Aedes aegypti. It causes a range of severe flu-like symptoms and is sometimes,
in extreme cases, fatal. Dengue is estimated by the WHO to affect 50-100 million people a
year, though a recent publication in Nature suggested that the true number may be around
350 million. Dengue incidence is increasing rapidly around the world and there is
currently no vaccine or specific medication. In 2013, Panama had over 3,000 reported
dengue cases – more than treble the number in 2012.
About Oxitec Ltd.
Oxitec is a pioneer in controlling insects that spread disease and damage crops. Its
products build upon the use of the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), an effective,
species-specific and environmentally friendly method of controlling harmful and damaging
insects. Oxitec’s first products are for the control of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito
species primarily responsible for transmitting dengue fever, and Mediterranean fruit fly,
one of the world’s most damaging agricultural pests.
About the Gorgas Institute (Instituto Conmemorativo Gorgas de Estudios de la Salud)
The Gorgas Institute is a long established Panamanian public health institution with
national and international recognition, generating new knowledge to guide health policies
Website and social networks:
The Gorgas Institute http://www.gorgas.gob.pa
SOURCE Oxitec Ltd.