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posted by Woods on Wednesday April 30 2014, @12:33AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the as-long-as-they-cannot-play-futebol dept.

The Brazilian government have decided in a 2-year trial to test genetically modified variant of the male mosquito Aedes aegypti that's common in the northeastern Brazil to combat the spread of dengue fever. Dengue is endemic in three of the host cities for this summer's World Cup. "We need to provide the government alternatives because the system we are using now in Brazil doesn't work," says Aldo Malavasi, president of Moscamed, the Brazilian company that's running the trial from a lab just outside of Jacobina.

The mosquitoes in the lab have their genes modified in the lab such that their offspring dies. Only the female mosquitoes bite, so only male mosquitoes are released which mate with wild females and produce offspring that die before they can reproduce. The technique is developed by the British company Oxitec with roots in Syngenta and GeneWatch points out that Oxitec are not totally transparent about the potential risks (like spontaneous DNA alterations).

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  • (Score: 2) by SlimmPickens on Wednesday April 30 2014, @12:58AM

    by SlimmPickens (1056) on Wednesday April 30 2014, @12:58AM (#37938)

    Although it does sound better thought out than cane toads.

    • (Score: 1) by gmby on Wednesday April 30 2014, @01:54AM

      by gmby (83) on Wednesday April 30 2014, @01:54AM (#37950)

      All the Mosquitoes die. Then bugs/birds/---> upthe food chain start to starve. How much is the little Maquito needed for food? What about pest control of rats and mice. The parasites carried are needed to keep things in balance. It's all intertwined in weird ways. I hate the little blood sucking beast; but I'd be worried about our world without them. And for a finale thought; what will replace them?

      --
      Bye /. and thanks for all the fish.
      • (Score: 2) by SlimmPickens on Wednesday April 30 2014, @02:04AM

        by SlimmPickens (1056) on Wednesday April 30 2014, @02:04AM (#37951)

        From what I understand, many or most species are not disease carrying or simply do not bite humans. We don't need to kill them all.

        • (Score: 2) by urza9814 on Wednesday April 30 2014, @02:40AM

          by urza9814 (3954) on Wednesday April 30 2014, @02:40AM (#37956) Journal

          Yeah, but the ones that do bite are often food for the ones that don't...

          That said...the intention here seems to be for it to be used as a short-term solution in a very small area. You're never going to kill off a significant portion of all mosquitoes in a large area with something like this -- you'd have to release billions of these modified mosquitoes fairly evenly distributed across the total area. Not all that feasible.

          But drop a few million in the middle of a major city, and the mosquito population in that city plummets after a single generation. BUT, since the offspring can't reproduce, they can't pass on this trait. So the survivors find no competition and tons of food and breed like mad. And mosquitoes nearby flood into the area in search of easy food as well. With how short the mosquito lifespan is, you're probably back up to normal populations within a week or so of using this.

          Assuming it all goes according to plan....with the short lifespans, genetic mutations happen quicker as well.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30 2014, @02:58AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30 2014, @02:58AM (#37961)

        All the Mosquitoes die

        It sounds like you think every one of those dudes is another Wilt Chamberlain. [google.com]

        ...and this is not a new idea.
        I remember something very similar being used over 2 decades ago. [google.com]

        -- gewg_

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30 2014, @04:09PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30 2014, @04:09PM (#38162)

      Ahh, "What could go wrong" indeed.

      This project brought to us by the same nation that created and released "Killer" Africanized bees and exported fire ants to the US.

  • (Score: 2) by LookIntoTheFuture on Wednesday April 30 2014, @01:39AM

    by LookIntoTheFuture (462) on Wednesday April 30 2014, @01:39AM (#37947)
    "...spontaneous DNA alterations..."

    Great. Next we'll be reading about gigantic mutant mosquitoes plaguing the world. I can see the neck-beards emerging from their parents' basements, running for their lives yelling "I told you this would happen! This is like Slashdot Beta all over again!"
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30 2014, @02:40AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30 2014, @02:40AM (#37955)

    Funny stuff. [google.com]

    -- gewg_

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30 2014, @05:51AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30 2014, @05:51AM (#37989)

      Dear Sir, I often find the stuff you post interesting but I've noted a sickening tendency to point to google. It's a bit vague and google is not your friend. Can you cut back on that?

  • (Score: 2) by cmn32480 on Wednesday April 30 2014, @02:49AM

    by cmn32480 (443) <cmn32480NO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday April 30 2014, @02:49AM (#37958) Journal

    They start to breed and all hell breaks loose.

    Messing with nature like this isn't a good thing. Quite frankly, this kind of genetic modification scares the crap out of me.

    --
    "It's a dog eat dog world, and I'm wearing Milkbone underwear" - Norm Peterson
    • (Score: 2) by Gaaark on Wednesday April 30 2014, @03:01AM

      by Gaaark (41) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday April 30 2014, @03:01AM (#37962) Journal
      Now I want to move to Brazil, so I can walk through the forest, hunting the mosquito, only to find they are hunting me!
      I too can say, "Clever girl" and get bitten and die...

      ...of dengue fever.


      Now that I have it out there, it seems to be not as interesting a way to go as in the movie.
      --
      --- Please remind me if I haven't been civil to you: I'm channeling MDC. ---Gaaark 2.0 ---
  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Dunbal on Wednesday April 30 2014, @03:09AM

    by Dunbal (3515) on Wednesday April 30 2014, @03:09AM (#37967)

    Absolutely flies (no pun intended) into the face of natural selection. You are hoping to modify a mosquito population by preventing them from having offspring because they breed with a finite number of modified males. There are a few things wrong with this:

    The modified males will not pass on their genes by definition, since they cannot produce offspring. Therefore you will have to buy each and every lab grown mosquito (hooray for the company that sells them) to hope to influence every single generation.

    You are hoping that the wild type females will actually be interested in breeding with these modified males at all. Even then, these males will be competing with wild type males, not replacing them.

    Natural selection working the way it does - it will become evolutionarily advantageous for females to spot any sort of difference between the mutated males and the wild type males and avoid breeding with mutants, ensuring that your modified stock will at some point become obsolete. This will probably happen long before the population is affected in any way, certainly before it is eradicated. Mosquito generations don't take that long (about 10 days).

    This reeks of a political, committee-selected solution that is a short term patch that will make some company quite rich but won't actually fix the problem and has the potential of making it much worse.

    • (Score: 2) by WizardFusion on Wednesday April 30 2014, @10:26AM

      by WizardFusion (498) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday April 30 2014, @10:26AM (#38041) Journal

      This reeks of a political, committee-selected solution that is a short term patch that will make some company quite rich but won't actually fix the problem and has the potential of making it much worse.

      So, business as usual then.

    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30 2014, @10:33AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30 2014, @10:33AM (#38044)

      Well, a similar technique all but eradicated the screwworm in most all of North America. Remains to be seen whether it'll work well enough with mosquitoes.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30 2014, @10:41PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30 2014, @10:41PM (#38283)

      Better or worse than DDT to prepare for the World's Cup?

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by stormwyrm on Wednesday April 30 2014, @05:56AM

    by stormwyrm (717) on Wednesday April 30 2014, @05:56AM (#37990) Journal

    This is an example of the sterile insect technique [wikipedia.org] which is a well-known approach for insect control, and works very well for insect species that perhaps mate only once in their lifetime (the female perhaps storing a batch of sperm internally for several egg-laying cycles) or die off soon after their mating cycle is complete. This was how screwworm flies [wikipedia.org] were eradicated in most of North America. They sent out millions of male flies sterilised by irradiation, which mated with female flies in the wild, and these females produced no offspring, and apparently they didn't mate again, keeping a non-viable batch of sperm from the sterile male. Not sure how well it would work with the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that cause dengue and yellow fever though. Apparently, unlike screwworm flies, mosquitoes will mate with males while they live. They mate, find a blood meal, rest for a few days, then lay their eggs. Soon after that, they can mate again. In the wild these mosquitoes can perhaps survive for a couple of weeks, so they may perform 2-3 mating cycles depending on whether they can get a blood meal.

    --
    Numquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necessitate.
  • (Score: 2) by nightsky30 on Wednesday April 30 2014, @11:05AM

    by nightsky30 (1818) on Wednesday April 30 2014, @11:05AM (#38052)

    From the same amazing country that brought us killer bees...

    Killer bees aren't more poisonous, just much more aggressive. And they weren't genetically modified using today's techniques, just cross bread for the traits someone thought they wanted like increased honey production. But with that increased production came the increased aggression. And the bees were accidentally released. They spread from Brazil all the way up to the southern US.

    So not even considering the affect on other wildlife(surge in pest populations if left unchecked by mosquitoes), why do we think it's a good idea to genetically modify organisms that already carry diseases and release them into the wild? I don't care if they die sooner. It's the question of what else has been modified that bothers me.

    • (Score: 2) by Geezer on Wednesday April 30 2014, @11:32AM

      by Geezer (511) on Wednesday April 30 2014, @11:32AM (#38054)

      Stink bugs. Stink bugs need to be next. Please.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30 2014, @03:15PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30 2014, @03:15PM (#38140)

    This can't be a sustainable solution (unless you manage to kill all mosquitoes, which may cause other problems).

    What about instead making a mosquito variant that cannot transfer Dengue, and make sure it has some evolutionary advantage over the mosquito that can (e.g. the modified mosquitoes are more attractive to potential mating partners)?

    • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Thursday May 01 2014, @02:43AM

      by Reziac (2489) on Thursday May 01 2014, @02:43AM (#38329) Homepage

      Show me how we miss screwworms, and I might be concerned about mosquitoes.

      Chances are the same niche will simply become populated with crane flies.