Not exactly a winning option, but it is a question facing Florida and other southern states. Yes, we are a society that hears the word GMO and immediately recoil in fear. You know what would really have you running inside? The idea of dengue and Chikungunya pandemics. It makes you consider a GMO mosquito.
Previously, these mosquito-borne viral diseases have been in Latin America and Puerto Rico. For Americans to think they will respect ICE memos and stay outside the United States is crazy at best.
Chikungunya is already here. The CDC has reported 11 locally transmitted cases in Florida as of January 15. In Puerto Rico? The number has swelled past 4,000. Before you shrug it off, Chikungunya causes severe pain and can leave patients with lifetime arthritis.
Dengue is just as debilitating. Anything known as ‘break-bone fever’ should be enough to cover yourself in DEET and longsleeves. A second infection is life threatening.
So, what can we do? The current prevention is pesticides. Not only is spraying harmful to the environment, but the mosquitoes have already developed resistance to four of the six pesticides used against Ae. aegypti.
The issue is the United States is ripe for a reintroduction of mosquito-borne viruses. We have the people and the climate. New technology is needed to prevent a pandemic of the viruses.
No one likes to throw the term GMO around, and it instantly earns a kneejerk reaction. Oxitec, a British company, has engineered a method to modify the Ae. aegypti mosquito. By inserting a gene into the male mosquito, it can cause the larvae of offsprings to die off. This greatly reduces the mosquitos that are vectors of the debilitating viruses.
Another method to control dengue is to introduce the bacteria Wolbachia into the male population. it would infect male mosquitoes only, causing eggs to not hatch. It would not infect humans. Cairns, Australia has used the technique to great success.
Of course, mention GMO in the press immediately scares people. Are there risks to any drugs and technology? Absolutely. To say there’s not is disingenuous at best.
The issue is doing nothing. Pesticides are not environmentally friendly and are losing potency. Inserting the GMO mosquitoes into the population with care seems to best option. Is it the greatest option? No, but it beats having ERs across the south fill with dengue and Chikungunya patients.
It’s not a perfect world, but if we let it hit pandemic standards, scientists would lose all control to introduce a fix in a rational and controlled way.
IMG Credit – Wikipedia