Dengue fever is spread by mosquitoes, and in Brazil, more than a million new cases of the disease can be seen each year. But researchers have now released a new weapon against the disease- in the form of genetically modified mosquitoes.
Recently released in the Brazilian city of Piracicaba, these modified mosquitoes are all males, and when they mate with local females, they pass on a gene that causes offspring to die when they are still larvae and unable to trasmit disease. They also pass on a gene that make the larvae glow red under UV light, so scientists can tell how effectively these males are breeding. It’s estimated that using insecticides can only kill about 50% of the mosquitoes, and a recent trial within a suburb of another Brazilian city with these genetically modified mosquitoes showed that the population was reduced by 95%, which is a huge improvement!
Will this approach work? Time will tell. It makes sense that fewer disease-transmitting mosquitoes should reduce the amount of disease, but that’s still not known for sure. It’s also possible that new mosquito populations will move in and begin to reproduce, making the presence of the genetically modified mosquitoes less effective, but for now, keep your fingers crossed that researchers are on the right track! Read more about this research here.