Genetically Engineering Mosquitoes to Fight mosquitoes

This article is published in Hindu. Shocked to read and really doubted are we that much advanced in technology to mutate / genetically modify a species to something?

Thought of sharing with all to know your perspective. It may be a small tiny mosquito. But the issue needs our concern and deep insights. Feeling like Hulk and X-men Stories starting.. May be we may mutate a MOSQUITO MAN like a spider man.

Here are the detailed articles as it is in the context.


Corporation’s new plan: grow mosquitoes to kill mosquitoes

Sterile male insects are the new weapon to combat their growing numbers

If the Chennai Corporation has its way, an army of male mosquitoes will soon spell doom for their own species in the city.

The civic body on Monday shortlisted a technology to grow sterile male mosquitoes to support its mosquito control operations without harming the environment. The technology was shortlisted after screening 23 proposals made by private agencies.

The civic body will soon commission specially designed glass houses to grow such sterile male mosquitoes of different species in neighbourhoods.

“The glass houses are likely to have a dimension of 20 feet by 100 feet. A minimum of one lakh mosquitoes can be grown out of which 40 per cent may be male. The females will be separated by attracting them using male pheromones and then, killed. The male mosquitoes will be subjected to gamma radiation of appropriate dosage to make them sterile. The sterile male will be introduced in neighbourhoods with high mosquito density,” said B.M. Rex, entomologist, Spartan Enterprises, which is one of the consultants for the project.

The female mosquitoes that breed in such neighbourhoods will lay infertile eggs. After the female lays eggs, it dies; the infertile eggs will not to hatch. This will lead to reduction in the number of mosquitoes.

The civic body is planning to tweak this technique in such a way that its sterile male mosquitoes will be able to successfully compete with existing normal male mosquitoes. The challenges such as exorbitant cost in procurement of pheromones to separate male from female, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board clearance in commissioning equipment for emitting gamma radiation and trained manpower will be overcome by the civic body by a specially chalked out strategy. The existing fogging operations will continue to be carried out by the civic body for mosquito control.

The Chennai Corporation had, asked private companies to shoulder the responsibility of mosquito control operations in the city. The decision was taken following a rise in mosquito menace.

The companies had their first meeting with the city health officer in September based on which the technology has been shortlisted. Residents in many added areas have been reporting severe mosquito menace.

The challenges caused by breeding grounds in over 25,000 unoccupied plots of land, two lakh overhead tanks, 74,526 wells, 65,166 sumps and 1,300 km of stormwater drains are likely to be tackled through the collective effort of such private entities.


This is an article about genetically engineering mosquitoes came an year back on the dailymail UK

Fears grow over mosquitoes genetically engineered to kill their own offspring

  • Scientists carry out ‘positive’ trial on Cayman Islands
  • New breed of insect could be used to tackle malaria and dengue fever
  • But critics say it could lead to public health problems
Breakthrough or danger? A UK-based research team has found a way of genetically modifying the Aedes aegypti mosquito so they pass on a deadly gene to their offspringBreakthrough or danger? A UK-based research team has found a way of genetically modifying the Aedes aegypti mosquito so they pass on a deadly gene to their offspring

Serious concerns have been raised over the release of a new breed of disease-fighting mosquito which has been genetically engineered to kill their own offspring.

There are hopes the project could be used to control agricultural pests and tackle deadly insect-borne illnesses such as dengue fever and malaria.

But the research has raised concerns about the possible side-effects on public health and the environment because, once released, the mosquitos cannot be recalled.

A UK-based scientific team revealed there had been positive signs from the first release into the environment of the mosquitoes, which are engineered to pass a lethal gene onto their offspring, killing them before adulthood.

The study team – which includes experts from Imperial College London and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine – released batches of modified mosquitoes in an area of the Cayman Islands where the dengue virus-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito is common.

The study, published in Nature Biotechnology journal, looked at how successfully the lab-reared, genetically modified insects could mate.

About 19,000 mosquitoes engineered in a lab were released over four weeks in 2009 in a 25-acre area on Grand Cayman island.

Based on data from traps, the genetically engineered males accounted for 16per cent of the overall male population in the test zone, and the lethal gene was found in almost 10 percent of larvae.

Those figures suggest the genetically engineered males were about half as successful in mating as wild ones, a rate sufficient to suppress the population.

Disease fighter? The new breed of mosquitoes could be used to tackle killer illnesses like dengue fever and malaria which affect the world's poorest populationsDisease fighter? The new breed of mosquitoes could be used to tackle killer illnesses like dengue fever and malaria which affect the world’s poorest populations

Luke Alphey, chief scientific officer at Oxitec, the firm which devised the technique, told the BBC: ‘We were really surprised how well they did.

‘For this method, you just need to get a reasonable proportion of the females to mate with GM males – you’ll never get the males as competitive as the wild ones, but they don’t have to be, they just have to be reasonably good.’


The genetic approach used to create the mosquitoes is a system known as tetracycline-controlled transcriptional activation (tTA).

The technique is an extension of one successfully used for decades to control or eradicate pests which involves sterilising millions of insects with radiation.

But the process has not worked with mosquitoes, partly because the radiation also injures them, making it difficult for them to compete with healthy counterparts for mates.

So Oxitec has now created the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes with a gene that will kill them unless they are given the common antibiotic tetracycline.

With tetracycline provided in the lab, the mosquitoes can be bred for generations and multiplied.

Males are then released into the wild, where tetracycline is not available.

They live long enough to mate but their progeny will die before adulthood.

Authorities in the Florida Keys hope to carry out an open-air test on the modified insects as early as December after experiencing the region’s first cases of dengue fever in decades.

Dr Alphey said the technique was safe because only males were released as it was only the females that bite people and spread the disease.

But critics say the process is by no means foolproof.

Alfred Handler, a geneticist at the Agriculture Department in Gainesville, Florida, said the mosquitoes can evolve resistance to the lethal gene while being bred for generations in a lab.

Todd Shelly, an entomologist for the Agriculture Department in Hawaii, also said in a commentary published on Sunday by Nature Biotechnology that 3.5per cent of the insects in a lab test survived to adulthood despite presumably carrying the lethal gene.

Also, the sorting of male and female mosquitoes, which is done by hand, can result in up to 0.5per cent of the released insects being female, the commentary said.

If millions of mosquitoes were released, even that small percentage of females could lead to a temporary increase in disease spread, it was reported by the New York Times.

Oxitec and a molecular biologist, Anthony A. James of the University of California, Irvine, say they have developed a solution — a genetic modification that makes female mosquitoes, but not males, unable to fly.

The grounded females cannot mate or bite people, and separating males from females before release would be easier.

The World Health Organisation expects to release guidance on how GM insects should be deployed in developing countries by the end of the year.

Disclaimer : This is used for non profit purpose and for social awareness. 
- Tagged: , ,