Brazilian scientists breed GM mosquitoes to halt dengue spread

Researchers in Brazil have created a method to genetically modify male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and release them into the wild to drastically reduce the mosquito population and prevent dengue from spreading.

Dengue is a disease that affects between 50 to 100 million people in the tropics and subtropics annually. The disease is caused by four separate viral strains that can be spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. There is no dengue vaccine, which is why scientists have concentrated on controlling the mosquito population, the Telegraph reports.

The initiative will involve releasing the genetically modified males into the population to have them mate with females. The researchers have already attempted the experiment in two towns infested with mosquitoes in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia.

"Their offspring will not reach adulthood, which should reduce the population," the Brazilian health ministry said, according to the Telegraph. "Using this technique, we reduced the mosquito population by 90 percent in six months."

The factory in which the mosquitoes are produced was inaugurated on Saturday in Bahia. The factory will produce four million insects per week.

Symptoms of dengue include fever, joint and muscle aches, and potentially fatal dengue shock syndrome and dengue hemorrhagic fever.