It seems that the wide use for genetic modification may not just be limited to the agriculture industry. Scientists may now be on the way of using genetic modification in trying to control the spread of diseases through its many carriers. An initial experiment that has already been underway has been using genetically modified mosquitoes in order to control dengue fever.
Scientists from a biotech company called Oxitec has developed a genetically modified mosquito from the Aedes aegypti species that can be used to curb down the spread of dengue fever in various tropical countries where the said disease may be wrecking its havoc. The genetically modified mosquitoes developed were of the male species that, when released and breeds with female mosquitoes, will lead to offspring that will die early, reducing the mosquito population in the process.
According to reports, 6,000 of such GM mosquitoes have already been released in the Malaysian forests in January of this year. A previous experiment last November by Oxitec scientists has led to such GM mosquitoes also released in the wild in the forests of the Cayman Islands. Another release of the GM mosquitoes to combat dengue is currently being planned in the Philippines.
According to the scientists, the GM mosquitoes may help curb the spread of dengue by trying to reduce the mosquito population. But this novel method of disease control may also come with other potentially serious issues. Many environmentalists and other scientists are becoming quite concerned of how these GM mosquitoes may affect the ecosystem as a whole.
Mosquitoes are not primarily known as deadly disease carriers. Although selected mosquito species like the Aedes aegypti have been discovered to spread diseases such s dengue and malaria, there are other species that may not be capable of doing this. Mosquitoes are also known to play certain roles in the ecosystem. They are known as a food source for other insects and animals and are also known as important pollinators.
With such roles that mosquitoes play in the ecosystem, the scope in how the reduction or even elimination of mosquito populations may affect the natural environment they belong in remains largely unknown. Environmentalists are concerned that actions like introducing GM mosquitoes in the wild remain untested and unproven and may still require more extensive testing in controlled environments before it can be considered safe. No further news has been released so far as to the effects of the GM mosquitoes that were already introduced in the wild.