Scientists Hope to Eradicate Disease With Massive Mosquito Orgy

By Rhett Jones on at

The mosquito genocide is beginning. Millions of genetically modified versions of the useless vampire insects are being prepared for release in Brazil. If all goes according to plan, the mosquitoes will have a huge sex party and begin to kill off all of their natural counterparts.

The world’s “first and biggest factory” for genetically modified mosquitoes is in Piracicaba, Brazil. Its owner, Oxitec, is manufacturing male mosquitoes that die quickly after they mate and pass on a genetic defect that causes any offspring to kick the bucket as well. In a country that has been hit hard by the Zika virus and dengue, this could be a game-changing, life-saving effort.

The firm has conducted five field tests between 2011 and 2014—the results showed a 90 per cent decline in the population of wild Aedes aegypti after the horny, modded male mosquitoes had time to get it on with unsuspecting female mosquitoes.

Oxitec has yet to receive approval from Brazilian health authorities to release its devastating swarm into the wild. The town of Piracicaba is currently its only customer and the two have signed a four-year, $1.1 million deal. The company is in conversation with “several municipalities and states,” according to Oxitec president Hadyn Parry.

The factory can produce 60 million mosquitoes a week and plans to release 10 million of them in Piracicaba the first week that it has approval. Honestly, I’m sure the town’s population of 360,000 will be happy about the long-term benefits but that’s a little over 27 mosquitoes per person. Life is going to be itchy for a while.

It’s truly unknown what kind of broader effect the systematic extinction of mosquitoes would have on the eco-system. The little pests are generally believed to have no broader purpose than to survive and spread disease. But without long-term impact studies, it’s difficult to say whether or not the destruction of mosquito species would come without consequence.

That doesn’t seem to bother the researchers at Oxitec. “There are three essential factors for the transmission of these diseases: the mosquitoes, the virus and humans,” Oxitec biologist Karla Tepedino told AFP News. “What we do here is eliminate the mosquitoes, which transmit the virus.”

She concluded, “Eliminating the vector, we eliminate the disease.” [Phys]