Oxitec Scientists Clip Wings of the Asian Tiger Mosquito
OXFORD, England, July 18, 2012 /PRNewswire/ –
Oxitec scientists have reported the creation of a new flightless strain of the Asian
tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus. The breakthrough, reported in the journal PLoS Neglected
Tropical Diseases, could help stop the spread of this dangerous and invasive pest.
The Asian tiger mosquito is a serious nuisance biter, but is also capable of
transmitting dengue fever, Chikungunya, West Nile Virus and a host of other diseases. In
the last few decades it has spread throughout the world and is now established in many
regions, including Europe and the US, where it is becoming both an extremely bothersome
pest and an increasing health concern.
Dr. Randy Gaugler, Director of the Center for Vector Biology at Rutgers University in
New Brunswick, USA explains the threat; ‘The Asian tiger mosquito is an extremely
aggressive biter prominent in the global surge in new and emerging vector-borne diseases.
The public health threat from this mosquito, particularly with regard to transmission of
dengue and chikungunya, is of concern to health professionals because there are no
vaccines or chemo-prophylaxis to treat infection. Suppressing the mosquitoes that transmit
the viruses is the only available approach. Conventional control strategies against this
species have been moderately effective at best. A new paradigm is needed.’
The Asian tiger mosquito is an extremely difficult pest to control: conventional
methods rely on chemical pesticides which not only harm other insects but are increasingly
ineffective as mosquitoes develop resistance.
Now, an Oxitec team led by Dr Genevieve Labbe has pioneered a new approach. The team
has genetically modified the mosquitoes with a ‘flightless’ gene so that the females are
unable to fly. Oxitec releases male mosquitoes carrying the flightless gene: male
mosquitoes can’t bite or spread diseases, and when Oxitec males mate with wild females,
their flightless daughters are unable to feed or reproduce, and soon die. Successive
releases will lead to a rapid reduction in the overall population of these mosquitoes in
Commenting on the breakthrough, Oxitec Chief Scientific Officer Dr Luke Alphey said:
“We believe this is an intelligent response to this invasive pest. These mosquitoes
and their breeding sites are hard for humans to find, which limits the effectiveness of
conventional control methods. So instead we are harnessing the natural drive of a male
mosquito to seek out a female. It’s not only an effective strategy but an environmentally
sound one too: the mosquitoes only mate with their own species so, in contrast to
pesticides, non-target insects are not harmed. Removing this mosquito would cause minimal
environmental disruption, not least because it is a very recent invasive species in most
The flightless mosquito strain is an adaptation of Oxitec’s genetically ‘sterile’
mosquitoes, which have already been successfully demonstrated in Grand Cayman and Brazil,
reducing target populations of the dengue mosquito, Aedes aegypti.
The PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases publication can be found at:
About Oxitec (http://www.oxitec.com)
Oxitec is developing and commercialising an effective and environment-friendly
proprietary technology for the control of significant insect pests. Oxitec’s technology
has the potential to make a major contribution for both global health and agriculture by
combating insects responsible for serious diseases such as dengue fever as well as
agricultural damage. The proprietary technology builds on inventions from the University
of Oxford and employs genetics and molecular biology to enhance the existing radiation
based Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), and to extend the control method to a broader range
of insect pests.
SOURCE Oxitec (www.oxitec.com)