Mosquito factory: Can malaria be stopped by British-bred genetically modified mosquitoes? | Mail OnlinePosted: April 2, 2012
A UK-based watchdog, GeneWatch, says Oxitec’s trials in Malaysia and Cayman were unethical and undertaken without the consent of local people: but Oxitec states it was formally invited to carry out the trials.
The second argument GeneWatch put up is the fear that the Asian Tiger mosquito, Aedes Albopictus, could move into the ecological niche vacated by Anopheles (if GM technology helps reduce its numbers significantly) and carry on its deadly work.
But Dr Chris Drakeley, senior lecturer in Immuno-Epidemiology and director of the Malaria Centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says ‘there’s no evidence other species of mosquito apart from Anopheles can be infected with and transmit Plasmodia.’
The debate and the trials will continue. Even if British scientists do continue to let loose their GM mosquitoes, the potentially lethal Anopheles will not become extinct.
But they hope the number of males who don’t bite and spread disease will expand exponentially over 15 or 16 mosquito generations.
Dr Heather Ferguson of Glasgow University adds a note of caution: ‘Of particular note is our almost complete ignorance of the mating biology of male Anopheles.