Actually, the offspring of genetically modified money fever mosquitoes should not be able to survive – but some still lived on. Now their descendants are spreading in a Brazilian village.
After a field trial to combat mosquitoes that transmit viruses, genetically modified insects spread in Brazil. Depending on the sample, ten to 60 percent of the yellow fever mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti) in the northeast Brazilian village of Jacobina have corresponding traces in the genome, scientists report in the journal "Scientific Reports".
The research institute Testbiotech criticizes the field trial: "The long-term consequences regarding the spread of diseases, the multiplication of mosquitoes and interactions with the environment can not be estimated," it says in a statement of the rather genetic engineering critical institute.
Some mosquitoes survived – unlike planned
From 2013 to 2015, the British company Oxitec released around 450,000 male mutated yellow fever mosquitoes in Jacobina each week. The genes of the mosquitoes had been altered so that the offspring of the insects should not be able to survive. The aim was to contain the population of mosquitoes, which can transmit, inter alia, yellow fever, dengue fever and the Zika virus. The pathogens are only transmitted by the female animals. Indeed, the number of mosquitoes with this method could actually be reduced by 80 to 95 percent, according to various studies.
However, some mosquitoes survived and now carry an altered genetic material in itself.
"Largely uncontrollable situation"
The animals were rushed to be exposed, criticizes the Brazilian biologist José Maria Gusman Ferraz in the newspaper "Folha de S. Paulo". Testbiotech also accuses Oxitec of having started the field trial without adequate studies.
The experiments had led to a "largely uncontrollable situation," said CEO Christoph Then. In the worst case, the damage could neither be covered by insurance nor corrected by emergency measures. This incident must have consequences for the further use of genetic engineering, calls Then. In the future, it must have the highest priority to prevent the spread of GMOs in natural populations.
Resistant to insecticides?
The consequences of the transfer of the genetically modified genome to future generations of yellow fever mosquitoes are still unclear, according to Scientific Reports. It may be that the GM mosquitoes are more robust and resistant to insecticides, the team led by Jeffrey Powell of Yale University in the study said, "These results show how important a surveillance program is in suspending genetically modified organisms in order to detect unexpected consequences . "
Meanwhile, Oxitec has changed its strategy. The second generation of genetically modified mosquitoes is programmed so that only the female offspring are not viable. The male young males, on the other hand, survive and can mate with other females. In the new program, the survival of genetically modified yellow fever mosquitoes is intentionally aimed at curbing the population of dangerous females.
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