A year ago we wrote an article about the use of genetically modified mosquitoes in South Florida as a way to fight population numbers of the pest. In this article we will follow up on that article and explain how well it has worked.
Since females mosquitoes are the ones that bite and consequently spread disease like Zika, chikungunya, and dengue, they were the target of this project. The idea is that if they were genetically designed to die before they reach reproduction age then two things wouldn’t happen: 1) They wouldn’t bite and 2) Their numbers would decrease.
According to an article published at nature.com, the experiment has thus far been a success. There is a clear decline in the number of this particular mosquito in the areas tested. The experiment has been so promising that other states like California have been looking at running the exact experiment. Currently the test is only being run in the Florida Keys.
GMO mosquitoes won’t get rid of the mosquito species altogether. This is important. Scientists understand that many other species of animal, such as bats, feed off of these insects. The hope is that they can make a huge dent in the population where they are at their worst and where there are large human population centers.
This test was on the A. aegypti mosquito. This mosquito represents only 4% of the overall mosquito population. The next step would be modifying the genes of the the black salt marsh mosquito (Aedes taeniorhynchus) which makes up 80% of the mosquito population.
Pictured above: Biotechnology firm Oxitec ran the first open-air test of genetically modified mosquitoes in the United States by placing boxes of its eggs in selected spots in the Florida Keys. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty