Release of GM Mosquitoes to fight Dengue Fever in Brazil

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In Rio de Janeiro, scientists have released thousands of mosquitoes infected with a bacteria that will hopefully suppress dengue fever. The theory is that the genetically modified yellow fever mosquitos (Aedes aegypti) will breed with the existing population and become the dominant type, thus eliminating the disease spreading variants.

Dengue is one of the most widespread and rapidly spreading mosquito-borne diseases in the world, with a 30-fold increase in global incidence over the past 50 years. So far Aedes aegypti have proved difficult to control with insecticides and more traditional methods. However it was discovered that A. aegypti transinfected with the wMel strain of Wolbachia showed limited dengue virus (DENV) replication. Virus-blocking persists in Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes after their release and establishment (like a vaccine). This, coupled with the ability of Wolbachia to both induce pathogen interferences and spread into mosquito vector population (i.e. become dominant) makes them ideal bio-control agents.

To achieve population suppression of Aedes aegypti using the RIDL system (Release of Insects carrying a Dominant Lethal), a large number of male mosquitos need to be released. This requires mass rearing techniques to obtain the highest quality males. RIDL is effective and an environmentally safe method of controlling mosquitoes, with no knock on effect to non-target organisms such as natural enemies.

Brazil leads the world in the number of dengue cases, with 3.2 million cases and 800 deaths reported in the 2009-14 period. Brazil has released around 11 million males in the 2012 programme, and part of the programme is also taking place in Australia, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Bian, G., Zhou, G., Lu, P., & Xi, Z. (2013). Replacing a native Wolbachia with a novel strain results in an increase in endosymbiont load and resistance to dengue virus in a mosquito vector. PLoS neglected tropical diseases, 7(6), e2250.
Carvalho, D. O., Nimmo, D., Naish, N., McKemey, A. R., Gray, P., Wilke, A. B., … & Capurro, M. L. (2014). Mass production of genetically modified Aedes aegypti for field releases in Brazil. JoVE (Journal of Visualized Experiments), (83), e3579-e3579.
Frentiu, F. D., Zakir, T., Walker, T., Popovici, J., Pyke, A. T., van den Hurk, A., … & O’Neill, S. L. (2014). Limited Dengue Virus Replication in Field-Collected Aedes aegypti Mosquitoes Infected with Wolbachia. PLoS neglected tropical diseases, 8(2), e2688.
Peter, R., & Scott, O. N. (2014, September). Using Wolbachia infections to control dengue transmission. In 8th Cuban Congress on Microbiology and Parasitology, 5th National Congress on Tropical Medicine and 5th International Symposium on HIV/aids infection in Cuba.
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One thought on “Release of GM Mosquitoes to fight Dengue Fever in Brazil

  1. Pingback: News Roundup: Autumn 2015. | Pests and Pollinators

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