Updated: Oct 25, 2020
I’m sure we’ve all heard about illnesses like Zika virus, dengue and malaria. Just
how typhoid is water-borne, and how the influenza virus is air-borne, these
sicknesses are all mosquito-borne.
Mosquitoes are hosts to a large variety of microbial creatures- viruses especially.
When they bite us, these micro-organisms enter our systems and make us sick.
There are methods of prevention- mosquito nets, creams and coils. Full sleeves and
insect repellents. Mosquito patches and antimalarial medication- the list goes on.
Or, you can just change the mosquitoes themselves.
In August, Florida authorities approved the release of 750 million genetically
modified mosquitoes. They are planned to be released sometime in 2021. But what
is the purpose of releasing them? These mosquitoes are genetically modified for the
objective of reducing the population of the deadly Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. This
species is one that spreads a huge range of diseases- ranging from dengue to the
Zika virus, from chikungunya to Mayaro.
It is only female Aedes aegypti that bite. The plan is to release 750 million genetically
modified male mosquitoes, which will later mate with wild female ones. However, the
males carry a protein that will kill off all female eggs, thus reducing the number of
new females- and subsequently reducing mosquito bites.
There are several critics who are against Oxitec’s efforts. About 240,000 people
have signed a petition opposing this. Some activists warn that this experiment may
fail, and give rise to a potentially more dangerous, mutant generation of mosquitoes.
Environmentalists strongly oppose this movement, saying that they refuse to allow "US states to become a testing ground for these mutant bugs."
There are two sides to every story- which side are you on?