Spermless mosquitoes could prove effective in tackling dengue feverPublished On: Mon, Oct 31st, 2011 | Flu | By BioNews
A UK-based scientific team has modified male mosquitoes so that their offspring die before reproducing.
These GM mosquitoes could prove effective in tackling dengue fever and other insect-borne diseases, the team said.
Dengue is caused by a virus transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito as it bites, cannot be curbed by bednets or indoor spraying.
When females breed with the sterile males rather than wild fertile ones, there will be no viable offspring, meaning there are fewer mosquitoes around to transmit the disease.
The researchers found the GM males mated successfully with wild females in a dengue-affected part of the Cayman Islands after they were released GM in 2009.
They stated such mating has not before been proven in the wild, and could cut the number of disease-carrying mosquitoes.
The research group – which includes scientists from Imperial College London and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine – found that the GM males made up 16percent of males in the study area, and fathered 10percent of the larvae.
“We were really surprised how well they did,” said Luke Alphey, Oxitec’s chief scientific officer and a visiting professor at Oxford University.
“For this method, you just need to get a reasonable proportion of the females to mate with GM males – you’ll never get the males as competitive as the wild ones, but they don’t have to be, they just have to be reasonably good,” he added.
Dr Raman Velayudhan, a WHO dengue expert told BBC News, “This study is the first to show that the mosquito population could be suppressed this way.”
“The fitness level is much better [compared with previous attempts] – it is almost the same as in wild mosquitoes,” he stated.
The study appeared in Nature Biotechnology journal.