PHNOM PENH, Nov. 4, (Khmer Times) – The British biotech firm Oxitec has genetically altered male mosquitoes and released them into the Brazilian wild in an effort to fight dengue fever.
The mosquitos have been genetically modified so that their offspring will die before reaching sexual maturity, according to a report by CCTV America.
A fluorescent gene to help researchers identify the modified mosquitos is contained within the DNA of the pesky insects.
Similar experiments have been carried out in several countries, such as Malaysia. But the release of the mosquitos in Brazil’s remote northeastern province of Natal to decimate their own population is the first commercial venture in the world.
Researchers around the globe have been working on ways to alter the DNA of mosquitos to eradicate malaria, dengue, and other diseases the gnats carry. If the tests prove positive, this genetic control strategy could be a solution for all those countries affected by malaria and dengue, including Cambodia.
Dr. Dustin Harrison, a microbiologist for the US Naval Medical Research Unit 2 in Phnom Penh, told the Khmer Times that 18.2 percent of the inhabitants of Cambodia are exposed to dengue.
Dengue fever is caused by any of the four closely related viruses. The infection with one serotype does not protect against others. On the contrary, this can lead to a higher risk of developing a severe form of hemorrhagic dengue.
This very serious version of the disease is difficult to detect, and there is currently no treatment for it.
The notion that genetically-modified mosquitos are flying about may scare some people, but the scientists reassured the public by saying that there is nothing to be afraid of.
“We are confident that there is no damage in using them in the field,” Brazilian scientist Danilo Carvalho told CCTV America. “I think it can help humanity to get rid any kind of disease. It is just a matter of what to do, how to do it and do it properly.”