Scientists arming new weapon against dengue, malaria — mosquitoes
According to Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) there is a need for a graded response to trials around GM technology that is meant for disease control. Controlled trials are underway in a handful of countries on a friendly mosquito.
GBIT is testing transgenic mosquitoes along with Oxitec Limited (an Oxford University spin-out biotech company). Hundreds of Aedes Aegypti vector mosquitoes responsible for spreading dengue and chikungunya among other diseases are kept in cages.
They are engineered through advanced biotechnology and are self-limiting, means genetically modified to cause its offspring to die.
How has Oxitec planned execution of this initiative:
- Oxitec has partnered agencies in Brazil, Panama, the US and the Cayman Islands for trials and pilot projects
- GBIT is seeking regulatory approvals for the third phase of trials in India, which would comprise limited open field trials.
- The first phase of trials was conducted in lab whereas the second phase was trials in a cage
- To remove apprehensions surrounding the initiative, villagers will be informed that only male mosquitoes are to be released and they neither bites humans nor spreads disease
- The OX513A gene being self-limiting does not remain in the environment
- Since the Aedes Aegypti only mates with its own kind, DNA sequences will not be spread to any other organism
Traditional control measures have failed to achieve desired results:
- The vector (Aedes Aegypti) which is responsible for dengue and chikungunya outbreaks, has survived traditional fumigating
- There is no immediate mass-scale programme to control these outbreaks
- The existing programmes have also failed to achieve the desired objectives
- It is highly significant from the perspective of public health and thus requires urgent intervention
What are friendly Aedes mosquitos:
- They are transgenic male mosquitos with a self-limiting gene inserted through advanced genetics
- The technology banks upon the natural instinct of the male to mate with a wild female
- The OX513A strain is inherited by the offspring, this ensures that the larvae dies before maturing into adult mosquitoes
- In cage trials only those larvae mature into adults where doses of tetracycline are added in water