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The mosquito experiment has a surprising result




(Newser)

The idea makes sense on paper: Imagine male mosquitoes genetically engineered to be sterile in a bug population and watch as insect numbers decline. As New Atlas reports, this happens in principle in an experiment in Brazil, but only for about 18 months. At that point, numbers have recovered, according to researchers at Yale in a new study of Scientific Reports . But perhaps more troubling is this: Scientists say that modified genes appear in the mosquito population, which should not have happened. This "is very likely to lead to a healthier population than the pre-release population due to hybrid vigor," the study wrote. The British company behind the experiment, Oxitec, strongly disputes the findings and tells Gizmodo that it is trying to withdraw or correct the study.

However, Yale researchers say the results are clear. "The claim was that the genes from the release strain would not fall into the general population because the offspring would die," senior author Jeffrey Powell said in a news release. "That obviously didn't happen." Before the test, it was estimated that 3% to 4% of the apparently sterile mosquitoes would be able to produce offspring, but these offspring are expected to be too weak to survive. These forecasts seem to be overly optimistic. Researchers do not claim that the new mosquito strain necessarily poses a greater risk to human health in Jacobina, where the study was conducted. But "the issue is the unanticipated result," says Powell New Atlas . (Maybe mosquito diet pills will work better?)

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