from the hmm-I-don't-know dept.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito is not just a nuisance—it's a known carrier of dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya, and Zika viruses. Distinguished by the black and white stripes on its legs, the species is one of the most dangerous to humans.
In the Brazilian city of Indaiatuba, an effort is underway to eliminate these pests before they have a chance to spread illness. The weapon: more Aedes aegypti mosquitoes—but ones genetically engineered to kill their own kind. Made by British biotechnology firm Oxitec, the mosquitoes seem to be working.
The modified mosquitoes carry a synthetic self-limiting gene that prevents female offspring from surviving. This is important, because only the females bite and transmit disease. In a new study, scientists at the company showed that their engineered insects were able to slash the local population of Aedes aegypti by up to 96 percent over 11 months in the neighborhoods where they were released.
[...] The modified males mate with wild females, but the self-limiting gene prevents female progeny from surviving. This gene, which is lab-engineered but based on elements found in E. coli and the herpes simplex virus, causes the female offspring's cells to produce lots of a protein called tTAV. This interferes with their cells' ability to produce other essential proteins needed for development. As a result, the females die off before they mature and start biting. Male offspring survive, carrying a copy of the self-limiting gene that they can then pass on.