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Biotech Science

Malaysia Releases Genetically Modified Mosquitoes 140

Posted by Soulskill
from the look-what-you've-done-gates dept.
Blessed_by_the_Cow writes "Apparently, Malaysian scientists have released 6,000 genetically modified male mosquitoes into the the wild. These bloodsuckers have been altered to have shorter lifespans. The basic idea behind it is to help slow down the spread of Dengue fever by killing off the mosquitoes faster."
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Malaysia Releases Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

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  • obligatory (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 28, 2011 @06:15PM (#35038548)

    what could possibly go wrong?

  • by kenrblan (1388237) on Friday January 28, 2011 @06:22PM (#35038648)
    For your Karma's sake, you should hope the moderators are male and not overly politically correct. Otherwise, kudos on a good one.
  • by afidel (530433) on Friday January 28, 2011 @06:26PM (#35038680)
    How do they expect these shorter lived males to outcompete their wild bretheren? If the trait is to become sufficiently distributed in the population for this to make a difference then they would have to have some method of making them superior breeders to offset the shortened window in which to breed.
  • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Friday January 28, 2011 @06:49PM (#35038942) Homepage Journal
    IAABiologist, and what will most likely happen is that their experiment will die off without affecting the rest of the population. The actual process of disabling or excising a gene would probably take a while, TBH; it's way more likely that evolution will simply select against the released mosquitoes. In order to win, Malaysia would have to replace all of the males in the population, which is just silly, or give their mosquitoes some advantage, like breeding more aggressively (which is how our favourite examples of humans screwing with ecosystems, alien invasive species, become invasive.) But that's not even compatible with their goal!

    What they really need to do is to poison the food supply: vaccinate humans with something that targets mosquitoes only.
  • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Friday January 28, 2011 @06:51PM (#35038962) Homepage Journal

    I know the comments so far follow the easy pattern -- either "what could possibly go wrong, lol" and "doesn't evolution kinda favor *longer* lives?" And I'm not entirely comfortable with human populations being used as guinea pigs for disease research -- cf. Tuskeegee et. al.

    But Dengue Fever [wikipedia.org] is some serious stuff. It's called "break-bone fever" for a reason -- the muscle and joint pain is debilitating, and lasts for weeks or months. It's one of those things that keeps poor communities impoverished -- each person infected requires care-giving, taking two or three healthy people out of the economy for every one infected.

    There's no vaccine, and nothing on the way until 2015 at least -- like many tropical diseases, there's more money to be made from lengthening a rich white guy's m@nh00d than there is in lengthening a poor brown woman's life.

    So as leery as I am of making random modifications to the DNA of an uncontrollable pest... I can at least understand the motivation.

  • by Scrameustache (459504) on Friday January 28, 2011 @06:55PM (#35039002) Homepage Journal

    Instead of modifying them for shorter lifespans, wouldn't it make more sense to modify them so that they, you know, don't carry dengue fever? Or failing that, modify them so that the females quickly die after first exposure to dengue? I'm not really sure that creating a mosquito that lives fast, dies young, and leaves a beautiful corpse really helps with the "not spreading disease" goal...

    Current gene modification technology basically works by breaking things and looking and what that did. They got a fully functional mosquito that dies faster than the time it takes to infect people on average... they reproduce it in captivity and flood the area with these guys hoping that this will make a significant dent in the rate of infection.

    Your idea would require technology beyond what people are currently capable of. It would be awesome, but so would jetpacks that suck in mosquitoes for fuel .

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