London, Apr 12: The world’s largest ever swarm of genetically modified mosquitoes has been released in Brazil to combat infectious disease, according to reports.
Jacobina, a farming town in Bahia, has been plagued for years by dengue fever, a mosquito-borne tropical disease and a leading cause of illness and fatality in Brazil.
According to the Global Post, the newly hatched Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have been engineered to wipe out their own species, the Independent reported.
Last year Brazil reported 1.4 million cases of dengue, for which there is no vaccine – the most severe form of the illness, dengue hemorrhagic fever, can lead to shock, coma and death.
The so-called “Franken-skeeter” has been genetically modified (GM) in a laboratory with a gene designed to devastate the non-GM Aedes aegypti population and reduce dengue’s spread.
The mosquitoes contain a lethal gene but are kept alive in the laboratory with the help of the antibiotic tetracycline. Once they reach larval stage, the males are separated from the females, which are subsequently destroyed.
Then the males, which don’t bite, are released so they can mate with wild females. Their offspring inherit the lethal gene and then die before they can reproduce because they are not treated with tetracycline. (ANI)