Dr. Bray Links

Monday, February 1, 2016

Zika virus could be from Oxitec's genetically modified mosquitos

Concerns have been raised scientists could be to blame for the Zika virus outbreak after genetically modified insects were released into Brazil three years ago.

Didcot-based biotechnology company Oxitec worked on the same type of mosquito that carries the virus in 2012, engineering them to have offspring that die out before they can breed, reducing the population of disease-carrying bugs.

Some scientists questioned the wisdom of the plan at the time and it has led to critics claiming the modification could have sparked the current outbreak.




In this country, Oxitec is currently awaiting FDA approval to conduct trials of its genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys. After an outbreak of dengue fever in Key West several years ago, county officials and Oxitec agreed to see if releasing the genetically modified mosquitoes here can help control the Aedes aegypti population. Many local residents have expressed concerns about the consequences of releasing genetically modified mosquitoes into the environment.



Early in November, at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) in Atlanta, researchers from the British company Oxitec disclosed results from the world's first genetically modified (GM) mosquito field trials aimed at controlling the carrier for dengue fever. After the presentation at the meeting, Science (330, 1030–1031, 2010) published a news story claiming the trials had “strained ties” with Oxitec's collaborator, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Anthony James, the lead investigator on the Gates team, was also quoted as saying he would “never release GM mosquitoes the way Oxitec has now done in Grand Cayman.” 

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