Report notes big reduction in GM mosquitoes in Grand Cayman
Releases of Oxitec’s genetically modified mosquitoes achieved an 80 per cent reduction of a local mosquito population in the Cayman Islands, as described in the prestigious international scientific journal Nature Biotechnology.
A paper by the Cayman Islands Mosquito Research and Control Unit (MRCU) and the UK company Oxitec reports a successful demonstration of Oxitec’s innovative approach to controlling the Aedes aegypti mosquito – the insect responsible for spreading dengue fever These data demonstrating the effectiveness of Oxitec’s solution, previously made available to the scientific community through conference presentations, are now published in a major peer-reviewed scientific journal.
Commenting on the publication, Dr William Petrie, Director of the MRCU said: “Dengue is a dangerous and debilitating disease which affects up to 100 million people each year. The incidence of dengue has grown very rapidly in recent years: it is now a serious threat to global health, and the only means of prevention is to target the mosquitoes which carry it. We need new tools in the fight against these dangerous pests, and today’s publication shows that Oxitec’s approach can provide that.”
The dengue mosquito has spread globally during the last 50 years, and is an extremely difficult pest to control as it lives in and around the home. Conventional methods rely on chemical pesticides which can harm other insects and which are becoming less effective as mosquitoes develop resistance. Dengue is endemic in at least 100 countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 50 to 100 million infections occur yearly, mostly among children.
Oxitec’s approach offers a practical, cost effective alternative to combat this growing problem. It involves the release of non-biting genetically modified ‘sterile’ male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to mate with wild females and suppress the target mosquito population.
Oxitec’s Chief Scientific Officer, Luke Alphey, added: “The publication reports an important result for us. We have developed our approach over a number of years and have conducted rigorous testing to ensure it is both sustainable and safe. These data indicate that it is also extremely effective, as previous laboratory and modelling work had led us to hope. 80 per cent suppression is an excellent result, especially as wild mosquitoes could migrate into the trial area – we should see even stronger reduction in larger or more isolated areas. We believe this approach can be used in many countries to offer a more effective, greener solution to controlling the Aedes aegypti mosquito and reducing dengue fever.
The trial reported in the publication was conducted in 2010 in Grand Cayman by the MRCU, with eggs of Oxitec’s genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquito provided by Oxitec.
Oxitec CEO Hadyn Parry commented: “Oxitec’s innovative approach achieved an excellent result in Cayman, dramatically reducing an urban population of the Dengue mosquito. Following this trial we have since done out-door demonstrations of our solution in Malaysia and Brazil. As with all public health initiatives, community engagement and regulatory oversight are very important and we have been very pleased by the interaction with regulators and positive feedback from the local community. We believe our approach can be integrated into many existing vector control programmes and we look forward to working with communities around the world to help combat mosquitoes that spread disease.