(NEW ATLAS) Mosquitoes are more than just a pest – they can be downright dangerous carriers of disease. One of the most innovative ideas to control populations of the bugs has been to release genetically modified male mosquitoes that produce unviable offspring. But unfortunately a test of this in Brazil appears to have failed, with genes from the mutant mosquitoes now mixing with the native population.
The idea sounded solid. Male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes were genetically engineered to have a dominant lethal gene. When they mated with wild female mozzies, this gene would drastically cut down the number of offspring they produced, and the few that were born should be too weak to survive long.
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Ultimately, this program should cut down the population of mosquitoes in an area – up to 85 percent, in some early tests. This of course means fewer bug-borne diseases, such as dengue, yellow fever, zika, and malaria, in humans. And since the offspring don’t live long enough to breed themselves, genes from the engineered bugs should stay neatly out of the gene pool of the wild population. The only visible effect should be the reduction of mosquito populations.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case.