Scientists Use STD Strategy to Control Mosquito Populations

Ochlerotatus notoscriptus, Tasmania, Australia
A number of of so-called “bio-controls” have been released in Florida in the last few years, to help in the fight against damaging invasive plants and pest control problems. The newest insect control plan recommended by scientists, is to release squadrons of genetically modified male mosquitoes into an area of Key West FL, that is a known haven for a species of yard-dwelling mosquitoes.

The mosquito species being targeted, is also the primary transmitter of dengue, a nasty, flu-like illness that sickens approximately 50 million people; annually. In severe cases, dengue can be fatal and there is no known treatment.The illness re-emerged in the Key West area in 2009, with 27 cases reported, the first recorded in the continental United States, since 1945. Another 66 cases were confirmed last year. Thankfully there have been none so far this year (2011), however there is additional evidence that suggests dengue is spreading, and so are the mosquitoes.

In this innovative application of “bio-controls,” considered the first of its kind in the United States, experts and scientists hope that lab-bred insects will mate with wild females, and pass on a defect built into their DNA; that kills their offspring. It is believed that this insect control approach is cheaper, more effective and more environmentally friendly, than any other method of targeting disease carriers, like these mosquitoes.

Unlike traditional insecticides and pesticides, which produce unwanted collateral insect damage and pose environmental and health concerns, these genetically modified or “transgenic” male mosquitoes; pose no threat to humans or other species. The biggest obstacle facing this natural pest control approach, is that there is no existing set of rules in place to regulate the genetically altered mosquitoes. As such, state agriculture officials must continue to consult with attorneys and other agencies, in an exhausting effort to decide who should review and approve the plan; before it is put into action.

By Richard Wheeler (Zephyris) 2007. Image of E...


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