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Panama to use transgenic mosquitoes to fight dengue

English: Stegomyia aegypti (formerly Aedes aeg...

(Archive image for illustrative purposes.)

PANAMA CITY, January 15, 2014 (AFP) – Panama will try to control a dengue outbreak that has claimed six lives this year by releasing transgenic mosquitoes to render infertile female transmitters of the disease, officials said Tuesday.

Health Ministry director Carlos Galvez told AFP the technique has “shown promise” in Brazil and the Cayman Islands.

In Panama, it is being run by the Instituto Gorgas tropical research institute.

“The GM male mosquitoes have contact with the females that transmit dengue; then the eggs the (non-GM) females lay no longer produce (dengue-)transmitting mosquitoes,” he explained.

Galvez said the GM mosquitoes are not a danger to humans because they do not feed on blood, but rather on fruits.

GM mosquitoes live for just a week, while normal ones live for a month.

The ministry plans to release the GM bugs in two weeks, numbering in the hundreds for each estimated dengue-transmitting female.

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  • expatin paradise

    Genetically modified mosquitoes released into the wild – what could possibly go wrong with this? Why not just use the tried-and-true method of releasing sterile males to breed with the females so that they produce no offspring? If this isn’t viable and GM mosquitoes are the only recourse, why not modify the males that will produce sterile offspring?

    Release of GM species into the wild is scarey stuff. Exhaustive research must be done prior to introduction of any transgenic species into the wild. Too many such species have been introduced with minimal research, thanks to the influence of companies such as Monsanto, Dow, and Syngensis in the US..

    • Ken Morris

      Love your first sentence, my reaction exactly.

    • Lav

      This technique has already been introduced in Brazil and Cayman Islands. I believe the study and research has already been done.

      I think we as humans, tend to get stuck on the concept of GM, but these Mosquitos now feed on fruit instead of blood. Modification has its place… The doctor in California who was part of the team on modifying the HIV virus to kill cancer; a genetically modified virus is saving lives.

      However, I do prefer my seeds grown from the earth instead of a lab.

      • expatin paradise

        I hesitate to argue with a beautiful woman, but we just don’t know enough. When were these mosquitoes introduced in the Caymans and Brazil? What will subsequent generations do? What impact with fruit-sucking mosquitoes do to the fruit crops? What effects will pass on to the birds and bats that feed on the mosquitoes? The full research has not, to my knowledge, been done.

        Monsanto and friends have also done research on the crops that now dominate the markets in the US, although there is evidence that they fudged on the results. New independent evidence indicates that their products actually require more chemicals (more cost to farmers, more pollution in waterways), do not yield more than bred crops, and do not have the nutritional value of traditional crops. The GM salmon that breed with normal salmon yield faster-growing fish with shorter lives and deformities – what will that do to the wild populations? If the genetic modifications did not yield fertile offspring, I would be much less hesitant to see these varieties released into the wild.

        I am not totally opposed to genetic modification, but think that we must be much more cautious than we have been. Most of the papayas in Hawaii (and most of the ones with pinkish flesh rather than yellow flesh everywhere) are GMOs. The modification in that case was to make the plants resistant to a fungus that almost wiped out that industry. As for modifications that combat life-threatening illness, the cure would appear to be better than the alternative.