Genetically Modified Mosquitoes? What You Need to Know

Genetically Modified Mosquito

Earlier this year, the first genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes were released into the United States. The U.S. experiment first began in the Florida Keys and has raised many concerns from the beginning. Florida residents quickly rallied against it, claiming that the mosquitoes could harm people. So what’s the truth? Our professionals at Palmetto Mosquito Control are here to answer your questions and break down everything you need to know about GM mosquitoes.

What Is a Genetically Modified Mosquito?

The release of GM mosquitoes into the United States is intended to test a method to deter the Aedes aegypti or more commonly known as, “yellow fever mosquitos.” These mosquitoes are linked to dangerous diseases such as Zika, dengue, chikungunya, and, of course, yellow fever. You can spot one of these dangerous insects typically in tropical areas and by the white markings on their legs. The GM mosquitoes are meant to reduce the population of Aedes aegypti without reducing other types of mosquitoes. 

Is This a New Study?

Before being released into the United States, field tests had been conducted in parts of Brazil, Panama, the Cayman Islands, and Malaysia. With over one billion GM mosquitoes released since 2019, these tests were determined to be a success.

How Are Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Produced?

Male Aedes aegypti eggs are mass-produced in a laboratory. These eggs must contain two types of genes. First, they must carry a self-limiting gene. Once a male carrying this gene mates with a female, the offspring will die. This prevents female mosquito offspring from surviving to adulthood, an effective approach since only female offspring can spread disease. Next, GM mosquitoes contain a fluorescent marker gene, which glows under a special red light. This allows for identification in the wild. Once the GM mosquitoes lay eggs, their eggs will carry these two genes. 

What If There’s a Disease Outbreak?

GM mosquitoes are intended to effectively prevent a disease outbreak, not stop one that is currently happening. Ultimately reducing the number of mosquitoes in a certain species and area, will decrease the odds of a disease outbreak occurring in the first place.

Are Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Dangerous?

Since there has been some strong pushback, it is valid to question if GM mosquitoes are dangerous. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has authorized the use of GM mosquitoes, and has officially determined in their research that they pose no risk to humans, animals, or the environment. Therefore, they have given Oxitec, a biotech company based in the United Kingdom, the rights to create GM mosquitoes. WHO has enforced strict regulations in the production of GM mosquitoes.

What’s Next?

Once the EPA can draw conclusions from the test in the Florida Keys, they can determine if more GM mosquitoes will be released elsewhere. They are specifically looking to track life span, travel, and gene control of the female population.

Need Assistance With Mosquito Control?

In any event, it is important to be educated on how to prevent mosquitoes from coming in and around your home. You’re not alone – your local exterminators and mosquito control experts can help you out. Contact Palmetto Exterminators today for more information!

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