Oxytech may soon release genetically modified mosquitoes

In mid-June, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services approved a plan to release millions of genetically modified mosquitoes into the wild. The idea is that once released, the mosquitoes will merge with the wild mosquitoes in the area and their genetic mutations will give rise to offspring that will never mature – resulting in a decrease in the number of mosquitoes over time.

This method has been tested in other parts of the world, but not everyone is sure that it is ready for primetime in the United States. The Mosquito Control District for Florida Keys has finally said whether genetically modified mosquito breeder Oxytech can release them on the island of Florida. Although the company has withdrawn a similar plan in 2018, some experts believe it is time to monitor the release of genetically modified animals. America has not made enough progress.

More than nuisance

Since the link between malaria and mosquitoes dates back to the late nineteenth century, people are trying to control it, the methods are much broader than just sweating with “We’ve done a lot of environmental sanitation with the Public Works Administration, but we’ve got TVs and window screens and air conditioners.” “Dr. Holly Tutten told Digital Trends. He is a vector ecologist in the Medical Entomology Lab at the University of Illinois. Now, most diseases in the United States, such as malaria, dengue, and yellow fever, come from people traveling outside the country. However, in 2013, several people were infected with dengue fever locally in Florida. There was another lawsuit in the Florida Keys earlier this year.

James Gathani / PHL

Fifty percent of the world’s population lives in dengue-prone areas. According to the World Health Organization it will get worse with climate change and its trend has increased 30 times in the last 50 years. Although most dengue cases are mild, about one in 20 people infected has an acute reaction that can lead to internal bleeding and death. There are four serotypes or different types of dengue and different types of secondary infections are more likely to have serious complications. A mild reaction can cause flu-like symptoms – rash, fever, pain, nausea – but many people report joint pain and fatigue year after year, according to The Lancet.

The main vectors of Dedu, Zika, yellow fever and various other diseases are a specific species of mosquito, Aedes aegypti. Waterlogging and sprayed crops are not universally effective for mosquito species, which are often seen in and around the house. Researchers have found their larvae in flower pots. Professor of Entomology at A&M University in Texas. “Right now our method is limited to pesticide spraying,” said Zach Adelman. Many organizations are hoping to bring genetically modified mosquitoes to the United States as a species-specific form of pest control. Oxytech, a U.S.-based biotechnology company that develops genetically modified insects to help control insects, immediately topped the list. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has granted the company an Experimental Use Permit (EU) for genetically engineered Aedes aegypti mosquito field testing. The trial is set to begin this summer in Florida.

Sterilized insects

One way to reduce the population is to ensure that his family survives. Researchers using sterile insect techniques (SITs) expose males to gamma rays or chemicals, damaging chromosomes and then releasing sterile insects into the wild to mate with females who – hopefully – do not produce sustainable offspring. Only female mosquitoes bite, so leaving men does not increase the spread of the disease. The population continues to decline as new, anxious men appear. It has been used to control pink ballworms and screw-insect flies.

“This is not a new concept,” said Dr. John Smith, a professor of entomology and epidemiology at Pennsylvania State University. Jason Rasgon said. “The strategies of sterile men have been around for almost 100 years. They did it by other methods but there were potential problems with some methods. Annoying men sometimes find it difficult to attract partners. “It’s not because women differentiate them,” Rasgun said. “That’s because these things were bombarded by radiation and they’re just a kind of sucker.” To produce a strong yet sterile male, the researchers turned to genetic modification.

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Oxytech has been conducting trials with its mosquitoes since 2009. At the time, some felt that the organization’s first attempt at Grand Cayman lacked sufficient transparency. In those years, the company continued to release insects and collect data. It has also gone into different versions of GM mosquitoes.

In its current version, the OX5034 is fairly new. Earlier versions, targeting all descendants – male and female – and 95% effective, said Dr. Oxitech, head of regulatory affairs. “But it was hard enough to make these mosquitoes,” he said. Insects were kept alive with antidote, then separated as pupae by sex before releasing the males. Only male offspring survive with new mosquitoes. They can go to music and go to the gin which will kill any female child in the wild.

“It surprised me and my classmates that, despite the important decision to release the first genetically modified mosquito, there was no external scientific board or panel that could help the EPA make that decision. “

Although not all male mosquitoes will accept that gene. “Half of the sons will inherit the hijra. Not the other half, “says Adeleman.” And that means that for each generation, the transgenic number will be divided by half. “If Oxytech spreads its GM mosquitoes into the population, it could theoretically go to zero. But if it shuts down, wild mosquitoes end up. Will return to the pre-release stage. “Mosquito reproduction rates are much higher,” Rasgun said, so that regeneration can occur fairly quickly. “The longer you do it, the more efficient it becomes, but it’s still temporary.”

The permanence of the fall reassures Rasgan. Not to mention the gene-drive strategy, it is designed to spread throughout the population even after limited release. “These are things that scare me a bit, because if something goes wrong, there’s no better way to remember it.”

Don’t call it Jurassic Park

Despite the immutability of Oxytech technology, some experts want the EPA to take extra security precautions before a trial is released in the United States. -The author raises concerns, in a conversation and in a Boston Globe. “It came as a surprise to me and my classmates that, despite the important decision to release the first genetically modified mosquito, there was no external scientific board or panel that could help the EPA make that decision,” Kuzma said.

When the EPA conducted a risk assessment, Kuzma said the risk assessment was published after public comment time. This means that outside experts could not raise questions or concerns based on that information. “What is missing in risk monitoring is not necessarily what it is, but the way in which certain data is given more benefit than the data or specific explanations than the assumptions made and other data,” he said. During the comments period, members of the public submitted more than 30,000 questions and concerns.

Victor Mary / Stringer / Getty

“We don’t even try to ring this huge bell, saying,‘ Oh, my God. O God. Jurassic Park. O God. Crazy, mutant mosquitoes, ”Tutten said, co-authoring the conversation article. He thinks Oxytech’s technology has a lot of potential. “My concerns are not specifically with every genetically modified mosquito, but with the regulatory mechanisms we use to evaluate and validate technologies for wildlife release,” he said.

“In the face of complete novel technology, how can we strengthen control and risk assessment as much as possible? “It’s a kind of crackdown on the issue,” he added. For example, Tuttenham wants U.S. regulatory agencies, such as the EPA, to adopt a standard risk assessment that could adapt to the release of genetically modified animals in certain areas. “When you’re initially evaluating the technology, it makes sense to look at animals in the larger ecosystem,” he said. He wants to see observations of other mosquito species in the area, the effects of Aedes aegypti landslides on those insects and their disease agents.

One option is to trial the cage field, mix GM mosquitoes with members of the wild population in outdoor cages, and observe the results. “I know it’s hard to do, but it seems like it’s something that would have been very good in the next step,” Kuzma said. This type of test will provide data on endogenous – genetic mixing that occurs as a result of men and their offspring continuing to mate with wild mosquitoes.

When using sterile male techniques in the United States, one of the main methods of pest control is done by spraying pesticides. It can lead to resistance and it can lead to arbitrariness. Tunen said, “Mosquito control is generally broad. It usually affects all species of mosquitoes, so there is little concern about whether one type of damage will increase the spread of another.”

Adelman of Texas A&M doesn’t think the loss of the Aedes IGP will be much mourned. “They are a pattern of colonization,” he said. “It lives in backyards, which aren’t deadly complex ecosystems, and there are no real predators that specialize in these,” he added.

“I think safe release of GM mosquitoes is possible,” Tutten said. He just wants the process to be transparent, with neutral third party input as much as possible. “The challenge here is who is right and who is wrong,” he said. “This is not a challenge at all. The challenge here is, we have the amazing technology that we have. How can we make the best use of it? “

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