October 31, 2011
Genetically Modified Mosquito Could Help Battle Dengue Fever
Scientists have found that a genetically modified mosquito could help tackle dengue fever and other insect-borne diseases.
Researchers found that the genetically modified males mated successfully with wild females in a dengue-affected part of the Cayman Islands.
They said that mating has not been proven in the wild, and could cut the number of disease-carrying mosquitoes.
The World Health Organization (WHO) believes there may be 50 million cases every year.
Scientists realized in the 1940s that sterile males could help control insects that carried disease or areas with agricultural pests.
When females breed with the sterile males, there would be fewer mosquitoes around that could transmit the disease.
The screwworm fly was eradicated from the Caribbean island of Curacao in the 1950s by using males sterilized by radiation.
The researchers in the latest study released batches of genetically modified mosquitoes in 2009 in an area of the Cayman Islands where dengue-carrying mosquitoes are most common.
The genetically modified males made up 16 percent of males in the study area, and fathered 10 percent of the larvae.
"We were really surprised how well they did," Luke Alphey, a visiting professor at Oxford University, said in a recent blog.
"For this method, you just need to get a reasonable proportion of the females to mate with GM males - you'll never get the males as competitive as the wild ones, but they don't have to be, they just have to be reasonably good."
The scientists reported their findings in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
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