Genetically Engineering Mosquitoes to Create Self Destructing Progeny

Oxitec is applying to release sterile mosquitoes that are programmed to create self destructing progeny. The sterile insect technique has been used over the last 50 years in a number of countries for controlling insects. Normally, these released insects are males. Releasing males is attractive because they aren't the ones that bite. The sterile males compete with wild males for the females.

Oxitec Limited developed a program to control mosquitoes, which is based on the sterile insect technology. This program involves the production of genetically engineered male mosquitoes, known as OX513A Aedes aegypti that possess a fluorescent marker and a conditional lethality characteristic. The goal or releasing these engineered mosquitoes is to reduce the local population of Aedes aegypti.

The genetically engineered Aedes Aegypti were developed to reduce mosquitoes in Florida. The engineered mosquito has not been approved for use until now. The conditional lethality is this mosquito larva requires tetracycline to live. Oxitec Limited plans to rear millions of male mosquitoes each week. The mosquitoes would be released and breed with wild mosquitoes. In the lab, when the larvae of the mosquito are given tetracycline it serves as a remedy for the self-limiting gene. When in the wild, without tetracycline, the genetically engineered progeny of OX513A (Aedes aegypti) will not reach adulthood.

OX513A has been approved for import and contained testing in Brazil, Cayman Islands, France, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, USA and Vietnam. Field trials are currently also underway in Brazil.

Thomas Masterson MD, editor,


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