Genetic mosquitoes are said to prevent dengue fever

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Genetically engineered mosquitoes are said to stop the spread of dengue fever

In Brazil, genetically modified mosquitoes are expected to contain the population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, as they cause dangerous dengue fever. If unchanged female mosquitoes mate with the genetically modified specimens, the common offspring dies at the larval stage. However, the ecological consequences are not foreseeable. In Malaysia, a similar attempt was canceled due to massive public protests.

No dengue vaccine found so far Dengue fever is an infectious disease caused by the dengue virus. The viruses are transmitted in tropical and subtropical regions by the mosquito "Aedes aegypti". Due to the increasing globalization, experts assume that the dengue fever will spread further due to the increasing spread of its vector. The disease is the fastest spreading and mosquito-borne viral infectious disease in the world. So far, neither a vaccine nor a promising antiviral therapy has been developed.

Dengue fever primarily shows flu-like symptoms such as fever, joint and limb pain. In addition, internal bleeding and the so-called dengue shock syndrome (DSS) can occur, which in both cases leads to the death of the patient. In the past six months, around 500,000 people in Brazil contracted dengue fever.

Due to the increasing spread of the infectious disease, the Brazilian Ministry of Health plans to use genetically modified mosquitoes against the carrier. Modified male mosquitoes are said to mate with unchanged females transmitting dengue fever. The common offspring should then die at the larval stage, so that the mosquito population as a whole is largely contained.

Insect factory produces genetically modified mosquitoes against dengue fever In the state of Bahia, the first insect factory of the company Oxitec, a spin-off of the University of Oxford, was opened a few days ago, which is to produce around four million transgenic mosquitoes per week in the future. Some time ago, Oxitec research head Luke Alphey wrote in the journal "Nature Biotechnology" that there had already been successful field trials with the genetically modified mosquitoes on the island of Grand Cayman in the Caribbean. The Brazilian ministry invokes further studies. In two villages, the mosquito population declined by 90 percent within one year due to the genetically modified male mosquitoes.

However, the Brazilian Ministry of Health's project has met with criticism in many places. The measure can only be considered a success after a long period of time. And even if the number of dengue infections actually declines, the microbiologist Anthony James wrote some time ago in the journal "Science". The number of mosquitoes is only of minor interest if the disease continues to spread and leads to the death of many people. In addition, the observation period of six months is too short to make reliable statements about the success of the experiment. The mosquito population could also have decreased within this short period due to other unknown influences.

Critics are particularly concerned about the ecological consequences that the intervention in nature could have. Nobody knows the consequences of the ecosystem if the Aedes aegypti mosquito is exterminated. For example, it is the food source for many birds and other animals. However, the mosquitoes may also develop resistance, so that the descendants of the genetically modified animals survive. This could even promote the spread of dengue fever.

In Malaysia, the population prevented the first field trials with the mosquitoes from Oxitec through massive protests. The developer was later accused of informing the public too late and insufficiently about his project. (ag)

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Video: New ways to battle transmission of mosquito-born viruses


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