Playing with fire: genetically modified mosquitoes are supposed to contain malaria

Forum Health Playing with fire: genetically modified mosquitoes are supposed to contain malaria

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    Playing with fire: genetically modified mosquitoes are supposed to contain malaria

    Genetically modified fruits and vegetables have been grown in eight different countries since 1995, including the USA. Genetic engineering has also been used in farm animals for years. In addition, there has now been a further advance by a British company, which is financially supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: Genetically modified male mosquitoes of the Aedes aegypti species are intended to cause a massive decline in the domestic population on the one hand, while on the other hand they are not capable of theirs To sting hosts. In this way, communicable diseases should disappear from the scene in the long run. However, experts point out that such interventions in nature can also have severe and uncontrollable effects.

    Florida wird „Ground Zero“

    In May of last year, the UK-based company Oxitec managed to obtain approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which had given the approval for the new experiment. Last week, according to the company’s press release, the project started for the first time in the USA, with millions and millions of mosquitoes being gradually released at six different locations in Florida. The idea behind it: The male species of the Mosquitos Aedes aegypti has been deprived of its fertility through genetic engineering. The aim is to curb the reproduction bit by bit until only a small number is left or the natural mosquito species is completely eradicated.

    Intervention proves problematic in advance

    In contrast to the researchers, however, the local population in Florida is not too enthusiastic about this idea. This includes the fear that stinging, genetically modified female mosquitoes could still appear in the future. According to the US consumer organization Center for Food Safety (CFS), this would be a very possible scenario, since so-called hybrid species would still arise with a probability of three to four percent. This new subspecies could then also integrate into the environment and is also subject to evolutionary adaptations, as is the case with existing species. This is of major concern as to whether future changes will increase the potential for increased transmission of other diseases.

    Warning signs from the past are played down

    Particular emphasis is placed on the inability of the genetically modified mosquito species to procreate, which is said to bring success in the fight against the pathogens. In a previous project in 2019 in Brazil, several swarms of insects were also released, but they continued to multiply. In a study published on this subject, up to 60 percent of traces of the modified genes of the genetically modified mosquito species were found in the mosquitos examined. In a reply, Oxitec denies these allegations and officially means that the experiment went according to plan. A year earlier, a similar project in the Cayman Islands was canceled after local authorities reported that the goals set by the research could not be met.

    The use of genetic engineering has already arrived in agriculture

    This type of advance is not new: a few decades ago, during which research succeeded bit by bit to decipher the genes of animal species and, ultimately, of humans, such ideas came up for the first time. With the help of the so-called CRISPR / Cas method, it was then possible to incorporate such changes in living beings, from bacteria to mammals. In large farms, for example in the USA, genetically manipulated livestock are already used, which produce greater yields due to increased muscle mass. Animal rights activists warn against cruelty to animals, as this can also severely limit the quality of life of the animal.

    Further projects are in the starting blocks

    However, resistance to various types of viruses is also implemented using this method, which in turn speaks for animal welfare. However, the effects on the human organism when genetically modified products are consumed in the long term are unknown. As well as the long-term effects on the environment and newly emerging subspecies. In addition to the Oxitec Mosquitos, other projects are now to follow, such as scientists from Imperial College in London report: They have genetically modified another species of mosquito so that genes against malaria can be passed on to their offspring. However, the exact effects on the environment are not exactly clarified here either.

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Forum Health Playing with fire: genetically modified mosquitoes are supposed to contain malaria