In DepthInfectious Diseases

GM mosquito study draws fire

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Science  20 Sep 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6459, pp. 1234
DOI: 10.1126/science.365.6459.1234

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Summary

For 10 years, the company Oxitec has been testing whether genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes can suppress populations of their natural brethren, which carry devastating viruses such as Zika and dengue. Its strategy: Deploy (nonbiting) male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes bearing a gene that should doom most of their offspring before adulthood. A team of independent researchers reported last week that some offspring of the GM mosquitoes survived and passed their genes to the local mosquito population. There's no evidence that these hybrids endanger humans more than the wild mosquitoes or that they'll render Oxitec's strategy ineffective. But the paper's suggestion that this genetic mixing could have made the mosquito population "more robust"—more resistant to insecticides, for example, or more likely to transmit disease—has triggered anti-GM news reports, a backlash from some scientists, and strong pushback from Oxitec.

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