Mosquitoes developed in laboratories Oxitec, a located in Didcot British biotechnology company, have already been released in some countries of South America, Malaysia, the Cayman Islands, and will be soon released in Panama and the India.
The company hopes to reduce mosquito populations carriers of the disease in up to 80%, but there is also a public stream of strong opposition to what is "genetically modified"; this could be an obstacle to the possibility of saving thousands of lives.
Diseases caused by mosquitoes are the major barriers impeding economic progress in countries of the third world. According to the World Health Organization, 200 million people were victims of malaria in 2010 and 655,000, mostly children, died as a result. Dengue is believed that it affects around 50-100 million people a year, with a result of 20,000 deaths.
This company that emerged from the University of Oxford in 2002, is first directed to fight the fever of dengue and its carrier, the mosquito Aedes aegypti.
The scientific director of Oxitec, Luke Alphey, devised an alternative to sterilize male insects. The process is to produce modified mosquito requiring an - tetracycline - antibiotic; These mosquitoes develop beyond the larval State. Modified males are given tetracycline in the laboratory and they are then released to play with females in the wild. Insects resulting offspring of this mixture require tetracycline to develop and not to find it are killed. Only males are introduced to the environment and in a few days they and their offspring are dead.
This company, Oxford Insect Technologies, believes that his technique is effective, cheap and much less harmful to the environment than the use of pesticides, but the problem is the phrase "genetically modified" and the fear that causes.
Differently to genetically modified grains, Oxitec mosquitoes are not designed to spread their genes to their offspring or other species. "We are not giving any advantage to these mosquitoes, we are actually giving them a disadvantage, sterility, which is the biggest disadvantage that you can have," said Haydyn Parry, CEO of the company. "Not you can pass their genes to other generations since each one of them is sterile, simply disappear." "Not crossed with other species, so there is no transmission of genes to nowhere".
By Dr. Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch, an Association that fight against genetic modifications without control, meanwhile, said she finds several problems with mosquitoes Oxitec and its tests. The main problem is tetracycline - antibiotic requiring young mosquitoes to survive - and that is used in livestock and meat In theory, if a female mosquito, daughter of one modified, chopping meat or animal containing tetracycline, could survive. Oxitec says that this possibility is very small and that its most recent tests in Cayman Islands, did not find an only mosquito that has survived.
Other critics have accused Oxitec's lack of transparency. At the beginning of this year, scientists from the Max Plack Institute for evolutionary biology, Germany, reviewed information related to modified losmosquitos released in Malaysia and Grand Cayman by Oxitec. At that time, the scientists pointed out that there is a "poor scientific control of regulatory documents and a general absence of exact descriptions available" before the release of modified mosquitoes would be given.