Mosquitoes have always been that kind of an insect that really succeeds in not only bugging you, but also make you feel uncomfortable because of their bite. Firstly painful and then leaving an incredible desire to scratch the skin, mosquitoes bites are avoidable, in the normal cases. But what if hundreds of genetically modified mosquitoes were released into the thin air in your neighborhood, with therapeutic purposes? It’s a question that brings difficulty into answering.
The people living In Florida Keys are going to test their patience by taking part of this exact scenario. If the FDA approves the release of millions of genetically modified mosquitoes that are meant to treat two deadly diseases: dengue and chikungunya, the residential neighborhood will be buzzing in no time.
Even if the spreading of the two diseases is quite rare, they are a threat to people in the US, as there are presently 50 million people in the world who have dengue; 2.5 % of those die of fever, which in this case is known as “break-bone”, in the acute stages of the disease. Chikungunya causes joint pain and excruciating contortions. Both of them are transmitted by mosquitoes.
The Washington Post report specifies the species of the mosquito that is creating the diseases: Aedes aegypti. These two diseases have a tropical origin and the viruses that people are being infected with are normally found only in the jungle. The cocktail mix that has been modifying the fighting mosquitoes is made of herpes simplex virus and E. coli bacteria. Also, they contain cabbage and coral DNA in their genomes.
Helen Wallace, a British environmentalist with the organization GeneWatch, has talked to The New Yorker in 2012 about the ones that come from the jungle.
“This mosquito is Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, plain and simple. To open a box and let these man-made creatures fly free is a risk with dangers we haven’t even begun to contemplate.”
The trick is to mate the mutant ones, who are especially modified to have a “kill switch”, with the tropical ones. This fact drastically reduces the birthrate of the tropical mosquitoes, and this is a solution that had to be taken after they have proven immunity at four different insecticides created just for them.
Because the residents of Florida Keys haven’t been informed very well and thus, the scientists might not obtain their consent. The only method that they have thought about is bringing a big cage of insects and asking people to put their arm inside, in order to see for themselves that they don’t bite humans. Unfortunately, individuals seem to be less scared by a deadly disease than by a bite of an unknown mosquito.