Most people are not fans of mosquitoes, but they are unavoidable here and in our Latin American countries. They carry disease and the bites can leave you sore and bleeding. What if there was a chance that researchers could release genetically modified mosquitoes? If that were to happen, that could prevent the spread of two very painful viral diseases: dengue fever and chikungunya.
Dengue fever, also known as the breakbone fever is a disease transmitted by mosquitoes that is caused by the dengue virus. Some of the symptoms can include, fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, as well as a skin rash, very similar to measles. There is no preventative vaccine to date.
Chikungunya is a viral disease caused by the Chikunguya virus. This starts with fever and joint pain. It’s also transmitted by mosquitoes and there is no vaccine to prevent it. This is the same disease that Lindsay Lohan was recently diagnosed with and seeking treatment, even though there is no cure .
Currently British researchers are waiting to hear from the Food and Drug Administration to see if they have the approval to release genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the Florida Keys that will aid in eliminating these diseases. Oxitec scientists found a way to create a new gene and inject this new DNA that includes the herpes simple virus with E. coli bacteria, coral, and cabbage into a mosquito egg. If the genetically engineered male mosquitoes are released into the wild they will mate with females, killing their offspring, reducing the population of these Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.
People are scared that these special mosquitoes might worsen things, especially if they bite humans. Oxitec has released over 70 million of their mosquitoes in various countries and there are no reports specifying how they affect humans. Oxitec’s 2012 experiment in the Cayman Islands released 3.3 million mosquitoes over the period of 6 months and it suppressed 96% of the target mosquitoes.
The experiment has been successful in other countries, but many people oppose it especially because there are so many different types of animals in the Florida Keys. Many are skeptical because feel like there isn’t enough research that says that these mosquitoes won’t harm humans or animals of that region.