There was once a company called Oxford Insect Technologies, or Oxitec, that came up with a brilliant solution to reduce the spread of mosquito-borne diseases: more mosquitoes. In particular, legions of mutated male Aedes aegypti that have been genetically modified (and approved by the EPA!) With a trait that causes their sperm to self-destruct after fertilization of the egg. Back in 2016, I called them “Sexytime Frankenstein Death Mosquitoes”, but unfortunately the nickname never caught on.
While this sounds completely ridiculous on the surface, it makes some sense: of the 3,500+ known species of mosquitoes on the planet, only females of the two species (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus) actually bite humans to feed on their blood, which is how these diseases are distributed in the first place. So you send the male Oxitec mutants to reproduce with the hungry females, which lay eggs that are not viable, and then they all die because the mosquitoes have a short life anyway and within a few months, there are no more attacks. from mosquitoes that can kill you. Meanwhile, there are still many hungry mosquitoes in the world that do not starve humans to keep the ecosystem working for frogs or whatever else it plans to feed on. And Oxitec has actually seen success with that! (Although that̵
… But Frankenstein’s idea of deadly mosquitoes from a sexy time still understandably drives people crazy. And like Futurism reports tearing up a city in Florida:
On Friday afternoon in March, a Florida Keys resident named Virginia Donaldson told Futurism that two men in uniform had approached her house, that they were working on “mosquito control” and asked her to participate in a new anti-mosquito program. pests.
Donaldson was in a hurry, so she says she signed their clipboard and watched them hang a small, black mosquito-catching glass in her yard.
“I don’t even know what I signed. I just signed my name,” she said. “I was like ‘Oh, mosquito control, whatever.'”[…]
Donaldson, for example, says that after learning more about the experiment, she decided she didn’t want to participate. A few days after the men in uniform installed the cup in her property, she cut it off, put it in a plastic bag to keep liquids from spilling inside, and left it on a chair in her yard.
Donaldson was not the only outraged resident either. But of course, the Oxitec representatives had already received the permission they needed to set up the mosquito traps, so they tried to put them back … which angered people even more, leading to allegations of violation. of property rights and property damage. Which made people even angrier. Which lead to some angry community encounters. Which led to the discovery of several other experimental omissions:
Oxitec’s mosquito eggs – which will be delivered to Florida Keys in “simple water addition” kits, which he distributes to residents’ property along with collection cups – will include both females and males. But women carrying the gene cannot survive without the drug tetracycline, so they are expected to die as larvae. The company says about 1,000 men will hatch from each kit in two weeks. The problem is that tetracycline is often used as an agricultural antibiotic in the area’s citrus groves.
The EPA prohibits Oxitec from releasing mosquitoes within 500 meters wherever tetracycline is used – several times the distance that is typically Aedesthe mosquito will travel throughout its life. However, at no time does the EPA require water at the site of release to be tested for traces of the compound.[…]
Kuzma was also concerned about the lack of cell experiments and the lack of research into whether the genetically hybridized mosquitoes that would emerge as Oxitec mosquitoes would mate with the wild population. More ▼ likely to spread dengue – an opportunity that no one has bothered to check or study.[…]
Meanwhile, part of the regulatory process has been shrouded in public attention. Only two pages of project documentation were available on the EPA website during the 30-day public comment period in 2019, which garnered more than 31,000 comments opposing the experiment and only 56 supporting it.
Futurism has the whole story, which is like a dark sci-fi sitcom in Florida.
Residents furious at the release of 500 million mosquitoes hacked by genes [Dan Robitzki / Futurism]
Scientists have found a smart new way to fight mosquito-borne diseases: more mosquitoes. [Thom Dunn / Upworthy]
Image: Alvesgaspar / Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 3.0)