Brazil mutant mosquitoes to breed out diseases

October 29, 2016 by Natalia Ramos
Larvae of mosquito Aedes aegypti OX513A, infected with the Wolbachia bacteria which alters the reproductive capability of its host, seen at Oxitec facility in Piracicaba, Brazil, on October 26, 2016

Scientists in Brazil are preparing to release millions of factory-bred mosquitoes in an attempt to wipe out their distant cousins that carry tropical diseases. The insects' method: have sex and then die.

British firm Oxitec says its genetically modified mosquitoes will swarm in among ordinary species such as Aedes aegypti, the insect that carries feared diseases such as Zika, dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya.

They will mate with the females of the ordinary mosquitoes, spawning babies with a genetically inbuilt flaw that causes them to die quickly.

With their work done, the modified father mosquitoes will then give up the ghost themselves—as they are genetically programmed to do.

Oxitec says its factory in the town of Piracicaba, northwest of Sao Paulo, can produce 60 million mutant mosquitoes a week.

Piracicaba is the world's "first and biggest factory" of genetically modified mosquitos, said Oxitec president Hadyn Parry.

"This is the only place where we have a factory like this. We can use this as a hub for Brazil," said Parry, who traveled to Piracicaba for the plant opening.

Currently their only Brazilian customer is the city of Piracicaba, "but we are having conversations with several municipalities and states," Parry said.

Oxitec CEO, Hadyn Parry

Mosquitoes by the millions

According to the firm, five field tests that they conducted between 2011 and 2014—in Panama and the Cayman Islands, as well as the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia—showed the population of wild Aedes aegypti insects dropped by 90 percent after the mutant mosquitoes were released.

Oxitec does not yet have a sales permit from Brazil's Anvisa health authorities, and there are no epidemiological studies showing whether mosquito-carried diseases drop after the factory-bred insects are released.

Parry is not concerned. "We are still waiting for Anvisa approval—we have no date for it, but we expect it for 2017," he said.

And none of this has stopped the mayor of Piracicaba from signing a four-year, $1.1 million deal with Oxitec.

In its first wave, the company will release 10 million factory-bred mosquitos each week into this city of 360,000 people.

The need for insect control is pressing, as the summer in the southern hemisphere approaches and the mosquito population—and cases of the diseases that they carry—is likely to boom.

Oxitec says its factory in the town of Piracicaba, northwest of Sao Paulo, can produce 60 million mutant mosquitoes a week

As of July nearly 1.4 million cases of dengue were recorded in Brazil, following the record 1.6 million cases in 2015, according to health ministry figures.

In the same period 174,000 cases of Zika were reported.

The Zika virus outbreak began in late 2015 in Brazil and has since spread across the Americas.

Zika is particularly dangerous to pregnant women because it can cause birth defects such as microcephaly, in which babies are born with unusually small heads and brain deformities.

Zika infection has also been linked to a nerve and immune disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Sex and death

Scientists keep the spacious rooms at the Piracicaba factory at temperature and humidity levels ideal for mosquito breeding.

An Aedes aegypti OX513A mosquito, created by Oxitec, seen at the British firm's facility in Piracicaba, north-west of Sao Paulo

While are kept for breeding, of the OX513A breed—especially developed by Oxitec in 2002—are released to mate with females in the wild, produce short-lived offspring, then die.

Oxitec biologist Karla Tepedino dismisses environmentalists' concerns about the lack of long-term impact studies.

"There are three essential factors for the transmission of these diseases: the mosquitoes, the virus and humans. What we do here is eliminate the mosquitoes, which transmit the virus," Tepedino told AFP.

"Eliminating the vector, we eliminate the disease," she said.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito is well-adapted to city life as it can breed in even tiny amounts of water, such as a puddle of rainwater or water pooled in flowerpots.

Experts have pointed to poor sanitation and the practice of storing open water containers in poor neighborhoods as contributing factors in the explosive growth of the mosquito population.

Separately, Rio de Janeiro authorities are attempting to control their mosquito population by releasing insects inoculated with the Wolbachia bacteria, which makes them resistant to Zika, dengue and other viruses.

Explore further: Genetically modified mosquitoes released in Cayman Islands

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July 28, 2016

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July 7, 2016

An effort to reduce mosquitoes and prevent the spread of viruses such as Zika in the Cayman Islands by releasing genetically altered mosquitoes is to start next week, officials in the British Caribbean territory said Thursday.

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August 5, 2016

A type of genetically modified mosquito made by the British company Oxitec should pose no danger to the environment, US regulators said on Friday after considering thousands of public comments.

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humy
3 / 5 (2) Oct 29, 2016
This is a good idea. But there is one quote there that I don't think is quite right;
With their work done, the modified father mosquitoes will then give up the ghost themselves—as they are genetically programmed to do.

Why have those males been genetically programmed to "give up the ghost themselves"?
There wouldn't be any point because, as anyone who has studied basic mosquito biology would tell you, male mosquitoes, unlike the females, don't bite or spread disease, thus wouldn't themselves impose any possible direct threat. It would be far better to genetically programmed them to live as long as possible to give more pest control thus they have got that part of their strategy wrong.
optical
Oct 29, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
antigoracle
5 / 5 (1) Oct 29, 2016
It would be far better to genetically programmed them to live as long as possible to give more pest control thus they have got that part of their strategy wrong.

Actually your suggestion would result in less pest but also less control over the process. Remember the intention is to limit the number of mosquitoes not wipe them out completely.
dogbert
1 / 5 (1) Oct 29, 2016
antigoracle,
Remember the intention is to limit the number of mosquitoes not wipe them out completely.


But why not wipe them out completely? They cause a tremendous amount of human suffering and death and are not an essential component of the environment. If they were eliminated, we would not miss them at all. There are plenty of other insects for the birds and fish to consume.
optical
Oct 29, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
humy
3 / 5 (2) Oct 29, 2016
Somewhat ironically, we are releasing mosquitoes into the wild http://phys.org/n...ed.html, which should eat them. We should first develop the genetically altered guppies, which would specially avoid the genetically mosquitoes...

This wouldn't be practical; how would a fish, whether GM or not, tell the difference between a genetically altered mosquito and a non-genetically altered one?
After, all, all mosquitoes, just like all life, has been genetically altered; by evolution!
humy
1 / 5 (3) Oct 29, 2016
Mosquitoes are important element of food chain. Without their existence many fancy species of tropical fishes would die out fast. .

What would stop them eating other insects such as water fleas etc?
Most tropical fishes wouldn't specialize on just eating mosquitoes and nothing else.
And if a fish species depended for its very existence specifically on mosquitoes and wouldn't adapt to other food sources, it would be well worth it going extinct for the return of no more mosquitoes and the death and suffering the mosquitoes bring. Preserving a species if it means causing human suffering and death and gives little benefit in return is a bad idea.
parkurtommo
5 / 5 (2) Oct 29, 2016
Mosquitoes are important element of food chain. Without their existence many fancy species of tropical fishes would die out fast. .

What would stop them eating other insects such as water fleas etc?
Most tropical fishes wouldn't specialize on just eating mosquitoes and nothing else.
And if a fish species depended for its very existence specifically on mosquitoes and wouldn't adapt to other food sources, it would be well worth it going extinct for the return of no more mosquitoes and the death and suffering the mosquitoes bring. Preserving a species if it means causing human suffering and death and gives little benefit in return is a bad idea.


And if these fish start eating another species instead of mosquitos, that will affect that particular insect's population which will have entirely different repercussions. Wiping out almost ANY type of animal on this planet can have big long term repercussions and imo it's never worth the risk.
antigoracle
4.2 / 5 (6) Oct 29, 2016
.. it would be well worth it going extinct for the return of no more mosquitoes and the death and suffering the mosquitoes bring. Preserving a species if it means causing human suffering and death and gives little benefit in return is a bad idea.

The natural balance of the food chain is quite intricate and full of unforeseeable effects as we have found from the many instances where we have ignorantly attempted to control what we considered pests. Chances are, the explosion of mosquito populations and infections, is the direct result of our actions. It could be the disruption of their natural predators or most likely it is our "ability" to create breeding grounds close to us. Eliminate those and infections will plummet. I have actually seen it work.
humy
2.3 / 5 (6) Oct 29, 2016
Chances are, the explosion of mosquito populations and infections, is the direct result of our actions.

RUBBISH; it is as a direct result of mosquitoes spreading disease, not us.
Illuminate the mosquitoes will stop them spreading disease and causing all the human suffering and death that comes with that so wiping them out would be a GOOD thing.
optical
Oct 29, 2016
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humy
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 29, 2016
And if these fish start eating another species instead of mosquitos, that will affect that particular insect's population which will have entirely different repercussions.

"entirely different repercussions" doesn't equate with "harmful repercussions". So what? it has an effect; that doesn't mean that effect must be bad. Everything we do has an effect; does everything we do necessarily have a bad effect?

Wiping out almost ANY type of animal on this planet can have big long term repercussions and imo it's never worth the risk.


This is simply not true, What premise do you have of this?
And even if that was true, the operative word there is "almost" in "almost ANY type of animal"; why include mosquitoes in that "almost"? Given we KNOW they definitely cause much death and suffering, we have every reason to think it would be worth the so called "risk" to wipe them out!
And we don't want to wipe out "ANY" animal but specifically mosquitoes.
humy
1 / 5 (1) Oct 29, 2016


RUBBISH; it is as a direct result of mosquitoes spreading disease, not us.
Illuminate the ...

misprint:
"Illuminate" should be "Eliminate"
parkurtommo
not rated yet Oct 29, 2016
All you have to do is look through in history the times that humans have meddled with populations at a large scale. So many things can happen, impossible to enumerate or predict. Both adding species or eliminating species can (and I think WILL) have huge repercussions.

It's one thing to exterminate the mosquitos in a certain area because they are bothering a neighbourhood or a house, but to completely kill off ALL mosquitos? Every animal that feeds off of mosquitoes will be affected in one way or another, populations will rise or fall exponentially. Hell, HUMANS will rise in population because of this, and that has implications too, but I won't go in to that stuff.
humy
1 / 5 (1) Oct 29, 2016
All you have to do is look through in history the times that humans have meddled with populations at a large scale. impossible to enumerate or predict.

Yerr like when we meddled with the population of small pox virus over the whole globe to wipe out the whole population of small pox viruses; just look at the ecological imbalance it caused to wipe out all the bees.

It's one thing to exterminate the mosquitoes in a certain area because they are bothering a neighbourhood or a house, but to completely kill off ALL mosquitos?

Yes that's right, there is no excuse to kill all the mosquitoes to stop all the pointless human suffering and death from malaria. What the hell are we thinking of compassionately trying to save human life!

humy
1 / 5 (1) Oct 29, 2016
I just cannot believe I am arguing here against people posting here that care more about the preservation of the malaria spreading mosquitoes than human lives that are devastated by the terrible deadly diseases they spread. This is taking 'conservation' to totally new loony heights. MANY but NOT EVERY species should be conserved; species of disease spreading mosquitoes being one of those we SHOULD wipe out.

I say to them; I bet you wouldn't be advocating their conservation if that meant YOU were personally one of the mosquito's victims!
optical
Oct 29, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (2) Oct 29, 2016
This is just a victim mentality: mosquitoes are beautiful furry animals with big cute eyes. They attack only when they feel threatened by lack of food resources.. They've full rights to live together with us here.

Sarcasm, Opti?
jsdarkdestruction
3 / 5 (4) Oct 29, 2016
While female mosquitoes are kept for breeding, male mosquitoes of the OX513A breed—especially developed by Oxitec in 2002—are released to mate with females in the wild, produce short-lived offspring, then die.

This seems highly suspicious to me and makes me even question the studies validity they claim proved it was working.
You would have to be completely insanely incompetent in the field they are working to not see keeping males around as long as possible to mate as much as possible is far more effective. Even I noticed it. These people are all about money. They don't care about helping people. The shorter they make them live the more the people who they are selling to must buy.
humy
3 / 5 (2) Oct 30, 2016
This is just a victim mentality: mosquitoes are beautiful furry animals with big cute eyes. They attack only when they feel threatened by lack of food resources.. .

yes aren't those disease carrying blood suckers so cuddly. When they bite us and kill us with malaria, it is because we provoked them.
Just checking; that WAS sarcasm, right?
Captain Stumpy
1 / 5 (3) Oct 30, 2016
Sarcasm, Opti?
@Whyde
more like hyperbole... but maybe with a touch of sarcastic satire

but until i get confirmation or feedback, i am not sure
he does have some really wild ideas when it comes to fringe beliefs

.

This seems highly suspicious to me and makes me even question the studies validity...to not see keeping males around as long as possible to mate as much as possible is far more effective
@JSDark
wondering about that myself

I am curious now.. i would like to see the studies

anyone have a link to the studies so i can enlist the aid of some biologists to get feedback?

any Oxitec studies? any validation of their work at all?
anyone?

TIA
Captain Stumpy
2 / 5 (4) Oct 30, 2016
When they bite us and kill us with malaria, it is because we provoked them.
Just checking; that WAS sarcasm, right?
@humy
more like hyperbole, as i said to Whyde above

you're quite wound up about this
but
considering their place in the food chain and our less-than-stellar history of killing off various living creatures, it would be far better to find a way to work in a slightly different direction than mass elimination of a species

... plus we don't know what else that could affect

personally, i never usually even get bit by mosquitoes (very rare - maybe 10-20 times a year, mostly in the spring, and i live in mosquito country, so that is rare), so perhaps there is something in researching why some humans are avoided and some are targeted

and no, i am not advocating for killing humans to save the bugs
just in applying logic, science and common sense to the situation - and mass death isn't logical, scientific nor does it make sense IMHO
humy
3 / 5 (2) Oct 30, 2016
considering their place in the food chain and our less-than-stellar history of killing off various living creatures,

Their place in the food chain doesn't appear to be anything like as important to us like, for example, the predictors that were killed off in US resulting in overgrazing from their pray.
Thus our history of killing off various living creatures doesn't directly apply here.
Rather than just blindly look at our past history without thinking about WHY the result of our actions was what it was, I think we should consider that WHY and, if we do that, we will see that wiping out all mosquitoes wouldn't, for example, result in a population explosion of grazing animals that would overgraze the land etc. So what if we cannot predict EVERY effect of eliminating them? -yes there MAY be an unforeseen bad consequence, but we can still rationally assign an extremely high probability that the overall NET effect will be on the whole more good rather than bad.
humy
1 / 5 (1) Oct 30, 2016
(...continued ... )
Most of the bad consequences from our actions in the past where perfectly predictable by anyone with reasonable intelligence that just would bother to think it through. For example, it is OBVIOUS to me that if you kill the main predictors of grazing animals then you probably get too much population growth from grazing pray which would OBVIOUSLY result in overgrazing. So it isn't true that it is impossible to predict with reasonable rational certainty the most likely significant consequences of wiping a species out. Wiping out all harmful (to us) mosquito species will obviously be a OVERALL good thing and would be worth it.
humy
1 / 5 (1) Oct 30, 2016
misprint;
'predictors' should be 'predators' in;
(...continued ... )
...For example, it is OBVIOUS to me that if you kill the main
predictors of grazing animals then ...

corley_kinnane
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 30, 2016
They're programmed to die after mating by their genes, not by us. This is what they do naturally.
humy
1 / 5 (2) Oct 31, 2016
They're programmed to die after mating by their genes, not by us. This is what they do naturally.

No, they are not programmed to die after mating by their genes; that wouldn't make any evolutionary sense.
If they naturally die after mating, it isn't because evolution has made them to have specific genes with the specific function to make them die after mating but rather it is merely because evolution has made no specific special adaptation for their continued survival after they have exhausted their very last chance to pass on their genes onto the next generation; that is just how evolution works.
It is the similar reason why evolution has failed to make special prevision to allow elderly people to survive beyond, say, 130 years old; there is no specific gene for making sure a person dies before they are 130 years old but rather its because there is merely no evolutionary impetus for an adaptation for survival beyond 130 years.
corley_kinnane
not rated yet Oct 31, 2016
@humy. I'm fairly certain everything you said there makes sense, except for the assertion that they aren't programmed to die after mating, since it happens that way, both their life and death are determined entirely by their biology, so I interpret your assertion as a desire to be right above common sense, who are we to say they should live forever and evolution is wrong.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Oct 31, 2016
Physorg headline 2050
"Cyborg mosquitos in Brazil hunt down poachers and illegal deforesters and drain their blood for a good cause.

"In related news, killer bees are trained to kill human traffickers in Louisiana."

-I just watched all episodes of True Detective.
krundoloss
not rated yet Oct 31, 2016
This article sounds like the beginning of a bad Sci-Fi movie "Mutant Mosquitoes", LOL.

I agree with what everyone is saying, it would be nice to rid mankind of this pest once and for all, yet who knows what the consequences would be to the environment.

If we could just kill all mosquitoes in a limited area, and keep killing them there, and study the effects for 10 years or so, then maybe we would have enough information to make a decision to eliminate them in larger areas.

This topic has been studied, and for the most part, scientists agree that the current Forseen repercussions are not severe, and yes it would be better for us overall if Mosquito Species that bite humans were totally eliminated. After All, they are currently causing 1 Million Deaths per year for Humans, so there is already a substantial "Ecological Effect" going on right now..........

http://www.nature...32a.html
humy
1 / 5 (1) Oct 31, 2016
@humy. I'm fairly certain everything you said there makes sense, except for the assertion that they aren't programmed to die after mating, since it happens that way, both their life and death are determined entirely by their biology, so I interpret your assertion as a desire to be right above common sense, who are we to say they should live forever and evolution is wrong.

You clearly haven't understood evolution.
BrettC
not rated yet Oct 31, 2016
All this to increase our population? Aren't we already at a crisis point in regards to this?
jeffensley
not rated yet Oct 31, 2016
It'll be interesting to see what the unintended consequences of this endeavor will be.
corley_kinnane
not rated yet Oct 31, 2016
@humy you don't really have much of a clue, it's obvious you're just upset and feel the need to troll your way through, pretending to be superior doesn't solve your personal issues. I made a brief statement, you then made a self inconsistent assertion which you're having trouble justifying. It's done, move or get angry, whatever.
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Nov 03, 2016
This article sounds like the beginning of a bad Sci-Fi movie "Mutant Mosquitoes", LOL.

"Mosquito-nada"....

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