FRIDAY, JUNE 22, 2018

Genetically modified mosquitoes fight dengue in Brazil

Scientists in Brazil believe their experiment involving the release of millions of genetically modified mosquitoes into the wild to reduce the impact of dengue fever is working.

More than a year ago, the researchers began releasing more than 10 million male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, carriers of the flu-like virus, into Juazeiro, a city of 288,000 people, according to Nature.

At a workshop held recently in Rio de Janeiro, Aldo Malavasi, the project's coordinator, said that the results were positive.

"From samples collected in the field, 85 per cent of the eggs were transgenic, which means that the males released are overriding the wild population. This [should result] in the decrease of Aedes mosquitoes, and in the decrease of dengue transmission," Malavasi said, reports.

Malavasi is also the president of Moscamed, a Brazilian firm that produced the genetically altered insects. The mosquitoes, developed originally by the British firm Oxitec, carry a gene that causes their offspring to die before reaching adulthood.

Although similar experiments have been conducted in Malaysia and the Cayman Islands, this is believed to be the largest of its kind to date.

"We developed technology to efficiently create the transgenic insects here [in Brazil], so we won't need to buy them from England in the future, reducing costs," Malavasi said, according to

The Brazilian National Biosafety Technical Committee approved the method, and a poll conducted in Juazeiro by Malavasi and his team found 90 percent of residents in favor of the experiment.

"They were worried when they saw so many mosquitoes [being released], but we worked closely with them to explain the experiment," Margareth Capurro, a biologist from the University of São Paulo, said, reports.