Genetic Modification in mosquitoes

By Amigos IAS

Why is it in the news?

  • Mosquitoes have plagued humans for millions of years, transmitting diseases like malaria, dengue, Zika, and more.
  • Rapid urbanization and climate change have exacerbated mosquito-borne diseases, necessitating innovative mosquito control methods.

Genetic Modification in Mosquitoes

  • GM mosquitoes are produced in laboratories. They carry two types of genes:
  • A self-limiting gene that prevents female mosquito offspring from reaching adulthood.
  • A fluorescent marker gene for easy identification in the wild.
  • These modifications are essential due to mosquito resistance to insecticides and treatments.
  • The modified mosquitoes have a shorter lifespan due to peptides impairing the malarial parasite’s development.
  • Gene drive technology is a powerful tool, combined with drugs, vaccines, and mosquito control, to combat malaria and save human lives.

Pros of Genetically modified mosquitoes

  • Successful use in various regions to control specific mosquito species.
  • Target only the desired mosquito species, sparing other types.
  • No known risks to people, animals, or the environment.
  • Expected reduction in disease-carrying mosquito populations over time.
  • Limited impact on local environments due to invasive mosquito species.
  • No addition of pesticides to the environment.
  • Relatively easy and low-manpower process for seeding areas with GMO male mosquitoes.
Cons of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes
  • Concerns about potential unknown pathogens carried or developed by GMO mosquitoes.
  • Insufficient testing and observation of GMO mosquitoes, according to critics.
  • Potential disruption of native species reliant on GMO mosquitoes for their diet.
  • Possibility of GMO mosquitoes mutating into stronger, reproductive forms.
  • Fear that some hatched GMO mosquitoes may survive and breed.
  • High cost and time-consuming production of GMO mosquitoes.

Way Forward

  • Careful planning to minimize risks in field trials.
  • Implementation of integrated mosquito management, including community education, surveillance, larvicides, and insecticides.
  • Elimination of standing water where mosquitoes lay eggs.
  • Monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of mosquito control programs.

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