In Florida (USA), genetically modified non-biting mosquitoes were released into natural ecosystems to become a “weapon” against common wild mosquitoes. The new GM species will displace their dangerous relatives.
In 2009 in Key West, which is on the territory of Florida Keys, was registered about a hundred cases of dengue fever. People affected by this viral disease die in twenty percent of cases if left untreated. The infection is thought to have been introduced to the islands by tourists and then spread by Aedes aegypti yellow fever mosquitoes, which make up only 4% of the local mosquito population.
Dengue fever is still a problem on the islands, so the local authorities conceived an experiment to create GM mosquitoes that would destroy their wild relatives that carry the infection. The British firm Oxitec, which has already carried out such projects in other countries, provided the insects for the experiment.
Genetically modified male Aedes aegypti should mate with wild females, and then the latter will give birth to offspring that will not be able to reproduce. The mutation that is lethal for mosquitoes, which underlies this self-destruction mechanism, was bred by gamma-irradiation of insects.