Oxitec GM Mosquitos Linked To Zika Outbreak 

Back in September 2010, a scientific report voiced concerns about the 3-4 % that would survive. The scientists wanted to do further investigations before releasing GM mosquitoes.

The report warned that transgenes (transferred genes) can lead to changes that are unintended, unpredictable and unrelated to the nature of the gene inserted.

In July 2012, praised British company Oxitec introduced its genetically-modified mosquito farm. Reportedly, the goal was to decrease the incidence of dengue fever.

In July 2015, shortly after releasing the 18 million GM mosquitoes into the wild in Brazil, Oxitec announced their success in controlling the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes without much data on the impact to the ecosystem.  Please note this is the same area of the recent outbreak of Zika infection.

Oxitec GM insects (designated OX513A),  were genetically altered male Aedes aegypti that mated with non-modified female Aedes mosquitoes in the wild.

 

Oxitec GM Mosquitos At The Epicenter Zika Outbreak.

Brazil started deploying GM mosquitoes to reduce the natural Aedes mosquito population that transmit dengue fever.

The production of offsprings triggered transcription in the modified part to kill the larvae before breeding age, provided no tetracycline (antibiotics) exposure during development.

Brazil is third in the World for using tetracycline with farmed animals. This is not well absorbed and over 75% is excreted into the soil. GM mosquitos looking for food can ingest this tetracycline as part of their blood meal. Even small amounts will suppress the modified development, allowing the altered mosquitoes to survive.

Tetracycline represses the GM-designed development. Small amounts of tetracycline can result in a survival rate as high as 15%.

It turned out that cat food was used to feed the larvae in at least one lab. This cat food contained factory-farmed chicken which also contains tetracycline. This was discovered when a disparity was noted in survival rate testing results, with one lab testing at 15% survival rate (the one with cat food fed larvae) and another testing in at just 3%.

Scientist Dr Ricarda Steinbrecher voiced concern regarding the release of GM mosquitoes without field cage studies.  She raised many questions, that required answers, to reduce the risk to mankind and other animals.

Earlier this year, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Germany examined information regarding the release of modified insects into the environment in Malaysia and Grand Cayman, which were carried out by Oxitec. The scientists’ findings suggest that there are “deficits in the scientific quality of regulatory documents and a general absence of accurate experimental descriptions available before releases start”. (3)

The Zika outbreak in Brazil followed Oxitec’s release of GM mosquitos.  The release location is the epicenter of the outbreak where a surge in babies with microcephaly was noted.

Recall GM mosquitoes act to produce abnormal offsprings in the natural Aedes mosquitoes, so they die before breeding.  Interesting  the Zika virus in pregnant women causes abnormal human offspring with reduced life expectancy.

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Questions For Oxitec  Before Release Of More GM Mosquitos

Here are questions that should be considered and answered before Oxitec is allowed to release more GM mosquitoes into the wild.  Most of the following questions were asked by Dr Steinbrecher in a letter to the National Biosafety Board (NBB.  World Health Organization scheduled an emergency meeting about Zika on Monday, February 1, 2016.

Let’s make sure Oxitec does not release more GM mosquitos before responding to the following questions and other questions that link GM mosquitos to the recent Zika  virus outbreak in Brazil.

When released into the wild:

  • Will the bite of the female LMO mosquito change?
  • How is the life cycle of the male mosquitos changed after genetic modification?
  • Will the reaction of humans or animals to the mosquito bite change?
  • Are there different immune reactions due to compositional changes in the saliva of the mosquito?
  • Will the pathogen vector interaction change in female mosquitoes?
  • Did the level of dengue virus present in the saliva change?
  • Did the affinity to dengue virus change?
  • Are there new interactions with other viruses?
  • Do different environments result in different altered phenotypic and behavioral characteristics?
  • Do different condition, biotic and abiotic stresses result in different survival rates?
  • What is the emergency response should GM mosquitos  harm humans or other animals?

 

Referenced links:

  1.  Zika Outbreak Epicenter in Same Area Where GM Mosquitoes Were Released in 2015:

http://www.activistpost.com/2016/01/zika-outbreak-epicenter-in-same-area-where-gm-mosquitoes-were-released-in-2015.html

 

2.  Release of GM mosquito Aedes aegypti OX513A (NRE(S)609-2/1/3) | EcoNexus

http://www.econexus.info/publication/release-gm-mosquito-aedes-aegypti-ox513a

 

3.  Can GM mosquitoes rid the world of a major killer? | Environment | The Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/jul/15/gm-mosquitoes-dengue-fever-feature?cat=environment&type=article