A horde of genetically-modified mutant mosquitoes has been unleashed on the Cayman Islands to kill other mosquitoes that carry potentially deadly dengue fever. The millions of sterilized male mosquitos will mate with wild females, but produce no offspring.
According to the World Health Organization, dengue is "the most common mosquito-borne viral disease of humans" and affects some 50 million people every year. 2.5 billion people around the world are at risk. It's also potentially deadly, so efforts to wipe it out are great! Pros: Frankenmosquitoes could possibly wipe out dengue fever on the islands. Cons: They're mosquitos that were created in a petri dish. Fucking with nature by introducing mutant insects to an ecosystem to kill off a species just sounds like a really, really bad idea. But hey, what do we know?
Researchers at Oxitec Limited, an Oxford-based company, created sterile male mosquitoes by manipulating the insects' DNA. Scientists in the Cayman Islands released 3 million mutant male mosquitoes to mate with wild female mosquitoes of the same species. That meant they wouldn't be able to produce any offspring, which would lower the population. Only female mosquitoes bite humans and spread diseases.
From May to October, scientists released batches of genetically mutated male mosquitoes in cages three times a week in a 40-acre (16-hectare) area. By August, mosquito numbers in that region dropped by 80 percent compared with a neighboring area where no sterile male mosquitoes were released.
An 80 percent drop in mosquitoes is impressive. But what happens in the long run? Nobody knows. "Nature often does just fine controlling its problems until we come along and blunder into it," Pete Riley, an anti-GM campaign director told the AP. Yeah that sounds about right.