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Brazilians Welcome Genetically-Modified Mosquito To Help Fight Dengue Fever 137

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-could-go-wrong? dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Brazilian government have decided to try battling the spread of dengue fever with GM mosquitoes. 'Now, with dengue endemic in three of the host cities for this summer's World Cup , Brazilian health officials are trying a radical new approach — biotechnology. They've begun a two-year trial release of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that have been genetically modified. "We need to provide the government alternatives because the system we are using now in Brazil doesn't work," says Aldo Malavasi, president of Moscamed, the Brazilian company that's running the trial from a lab just outside of Jacobina. The new breed of Aedes aegypti has been given a lethal gene. The deadly flaw is kept in check in the lab, but the mosquitoes soon die in the wild.'"
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Brazilians Welcome Genetically-Modified Mosquito To Help Fight Dengue Fever

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  • The Brazilian government has authorized the two-year trial. The hope is that the male GM mosquitos will mate with wild females and produce offspring that will die before they can reproduce .

    If they die off within one generation.... then females that didn't mate with the male GM females will survive and reproduce.

    The GM whizzes should be engineering mosquitos that still manage to reproduce together and with non-GM females and have offspring that don't bite humans but still reproduce.

    Also, they should

    • by axlash (960838)

      Even better would be if they could engineer mosquitoes whose *grandchildren* (or great grandchildren) would be sterile, further maximising the damage.

      • by TheCarp (96830)

        Or how about a mosquito where only female progeny die. Males are born normally and survive.... leading to a runaway skew in their populations.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The GM whizzes should be engineering mosquitos that still manage to reproduce together and with non-GM females and have offspring that don't bite humans but still reproduce.

      Good idea! Or how about this one - make some that do bite, but the bite leaves a dose of polio vaccine! Or how about the modified mosquitos all get together and deliver milk to starving babies! What is wrong with these "whizzes"? I'm just another buffoon on Slashdot and yet I can come up with a better solution in just two minutes tun t

    • by Ihlosi (895663)
      Also, they should compete favorably against non-GM mosquitos for mating purposes.

      That's going to be hard, take one blood source away and still be competitive.

      Instead, they could make GM mosquitoes that are unsuitable as carriers for the Dengue virus. You'd still get stung by them, but at least you're less likely to catch crippling diseases.

      • by mythosaz (572040)

        ...great, but they'd still have to make the non-Dengue mosquitoes win out over the regular 'ol Dengue mosquitoes somehow.

      • The question of the viability here is how much of a blood source are humans. If we are an insignificant source, then it's not a big deal.
        • by tehdaemon (753808)

          http://xkcd.com/1338/

          Us + our livestock is just about all there is... Note, this exlcudes birds.

          T

        • by mysidia (191772)

          The question of the viability here is how much of a blood source are humans

          Some mosquitos have evolved the ability to lay eggs without taking a blood meal. There are some non-biting mosquitos that have evolved.

      • by Jmc23 (2353706)
        Why gm something that already exists? You know how many species of mosquito there are?
  • by SirAdelaide (1432553) on Monday April 28, 2014 @02:40AM (#46857017)

    This is a great idea, and illustrates the benefits of science to help improve the world. Ecosystems around human habitations aren't natural to start with, and we have every right to mess them up for our benefit.

    Also from the article:

    For his part, Moscamed’s Aldo Malavasi gets impatient with critics from rich countries.

    “Dengue is a problem in poor countries, in Latin America, Africa and Asia,” Malavasi says. “I don’t care about Europeans. I don’t care about you gringos. I care to help the people in Africa, Latin America and Asia.”

    That is the sort of practical attitude we need to solve the problems of poor countries. Less hand wringing, more action, with adaptive management of any issues that arise.

    For what it's worth, I have a bachelor's degree in science with a double major in ecology, and a bachelor's degree in civil engineering. I work as a civil engineer providing water supplies rather than as an ecologist because there's no/hardly any money in science, so I might have a different point of view than more pure scientists. As far as I'm concerned, the reason to care about the environment is because we live in it. We should protect or change the environment as we see fit to benefit the most number of people. That's why we dam rivers, clear land, make farms, build cities, and protect endangered animals; it's all to improve quality of life for humans. Until mosquitoes become endangered, we should kill as many as we can.

    • by HiThere (15173)

      A reasonable attitude, but poor politics. Better would be to point out that the warming climate is spreading tropical diseases away from the equator, so that you can already get Dengue fever and malaria in the US. (Don't point out that this may really be due to increased population mobility.)

  • Not the first time (Score:3, Informative)

    by Pallas Athena (2855215) on Monday April 28, 2014 @02:42AM (#46857023)
    Well, as the previous exercise [wikipedia.org] with creating and releasing a new subspecies in Brazil was such a big success, let's repeat it. What could go wrong?
    • by mythosaz (572040)

      You're right. It's not the first time. We've been releasing sterile males into insect populations for 60 years with great success. This is just another story to make errmagarghd, monsanto! types get all grumpy.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28, 2014 @02:50AM (#46857041)
    When did the Slashdot audience start to diverge so much from understanding science? The "death-gene" and GM misunderstandings fuelling the discussion here is like reading an intelligent design forum. And you see the same anti-science/science-ignorance tendency in other science-related areas (GM debates in general, climate change, etc.). Is this part of the general anti-science sentiment we see growing in US, or is there a change in Slashdot audience (I've been lurking here forever, and it really wasn't this science-ignorant before).
    • Computers have become simple enough for anyone to use, allowing people completely ignorant about logic and technology to read and comment here on Slashdot. Look, I do not intend at any time here being "elitist"... But at the same time that the "digital revolution" allowed access to the masses, also allowed access to the modern caveman.
    • by Rich0 (548339)

      Judging by the time on the posts, I'd say that this is more the European anti-science bias. People everywhere love their pseudoscience. In the US it tends to take the creationist stance most of the time, and in Europe anti-GM is all the rage. You will of course find examples of all forms of pseudoscience everywhere, but everybody has their preference.

      Standby for accusations that I must work for Monsanto, or whatever big corporate conspiracy is supposed to be trying to deceive our kids with the evils of e

      • With the exception of a few isolated Waconian compounds, religious influence on science will continue to wane as information and education continue their spread. The goal here should not be to bring every last pocket of resistance in developed countries to the table, but to bring science, personal freedoms, and education to the parts of the World where God-Belief is still ubiquitous.

        .

        The blanket objection to genetically-modified anything is pervasive in even otherwise intelligent citizens, and these blokes

        • by Rich0 (548339)

          No doubt marketing plays a role. The last thing ANYBODY wants you to do is consider the facts. People making junk food don't want you to think about whether junk food is bad for you. People who sell $5 apples don't want you to think about the fact that no studies really show that they're any better for you than the 50 cent apples.

          You're supposed to be a good consumer and do what the ads tell you to. That easily translates into doing what your pastor, friend, celebrity on TV tells you to.

        • religious influence on science will continue to wane

          O RLY? [badgerherald.com]

      • by Immerman (2627577)

        I think at least a large portion of the opposition to GMOs has little to do with being anti-science, in fact let me offer some largely pro-science opposition.
        1) Agricultural GMOs tend to be created by large corporations openly trying to get a lock on the agricultural industry. That's a politically dangerous proposition.
        2) Agricultural GMOs tend to create an monoculture with a very small gene pool - leaving them incredibly vulnerable to plague, and us to the resulting famine.
        3) Biology is *complicated*. We'

    • I've been lurking here forever, and it really wasn't this science-ignorant before

      No, contrary to your memory, it's pretty much always been this way. Outside of computer related topics and specific geek topics (Monty Python, or game trivia for example), Slashdot in general isn't very much smarter or more knowledgeable than any other random Joe. Moat days, we're lucky and the moderation system produces a thin facade of not being so, but not always.

    • by tomhath (637240)

      Is this part of the general anti-science sentiment we see growing in US, or is there a change in Slashdot audience

      Excellent question. IMHO it's a conscience decision by Dice to stir up debate with the goal of getting more traffic. Many of the hot topics have nothing to do with News for Nerds (how many threads did we see related to Zimmerman/Martin? how many did we see related to Occupy Wall Street?), Once the door is opened to screaming about politics it slops over into every thread.

      • by mythosaz (572040)

        It's not a change so much in the /. audience. It's a change in the minds of the /. editors to post everything they think will get page hits -- and then the idiots follow.

        The front page is probably a year away from "One Secret Trick, 99% of Linux Users Don't Know!"

    • by Kinthelt (96845)

      It started happening once 6-digit IDs started going out.

    • by Jmc23 (2353706)
      If you look carefully, there's very little understanding of science on either side of the debate. It seems to be only the fanatics and believers are left proselytizing for their side. Nothing with a lower snr, and detrimental to critical thinking, than the cacaphony of religious nutters and science fanbois going at it.
    • by Belial6 (794905)
      Speaking of anti-science sentiment growing in the US. It was sad to see this in the 'Science and Education' section of Toys 'R' Us the other day: http://www.toysrus.com/product... [toysrus.com]
  • by flyingfsck (986395) on Monday April 28, 2014 @03:38AM (#46857103)
    We need to engineer mosquitos that are allergic to humans and which will rather bite each other. That would be a great way to get revenge for thousands of years of human itching and scratching.
  • by rossdee (243626) on Monday April 28, 2014 @03:57AM (#46857137)

    were made of wood, and had two Merlin engines

  • by Guppy (12314) on Monday April 28, 2014 @03:57AM (#46857139)

    A brief primer -- this is a modern twist on the Sterile Insect Technique [wikipedia.org] that has been used since the 1950's to control the Screw-worm fly, and other insect pests [wikipedia.org].

    While the screw-worm's life-cycle was almost tailor-made to work with this technique (females only mate once in a lifetime; large numbers of insects can easily bred in the laboratory; sterilizing doses of radiation do not significantly cripple the males' ability to compete for mates; the males can self-distribute over a wide range), this technique proved to be harder to apply to mosquitoes (else we would have been doing it in the 1950's) -- while a few mosquito species could be controlled with this technique, irradiated Anopheles males suffered from too large a fitness drop to be effective.

    Genetic engineering allows us to side-step male fitness problems that occur with radiation sterilization of mosquitoes, and improves the reliability of sterilizing large batches of reliably and efficiently.

  • Hopefully it doesn't end that bad: Mimic [imdb.com].
  • in NE Brazil.
    The bloodsucking role is with the female mosquitos. But to reproduce, they need a male... at this point, they supply a gene defective adult male mosquito, in great numbers. If you stop with the supply, the population will restore. But while you are supplying, the population drops a lot.

    I prefer this method than the smoke one, which is smelly, uneffective and fuck our swimming pool.

  • Call me crazy, but logically, wouldn't it make more sense to GM the humans resistance to dengue, than to mess with GM insects and the base of ecology?

    However one is clearly blasphemous and wrong, and the other is a fantastic idea. Clearly this makes sense. Anyway in terms of world impact, and direct intervention, it would make sense.

    Anyway I always approach the topic with caution, as best intentions and unintended consequences etc...

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Since the gene can't be past one, becasue the off spring is dead, it wold make sense t GM people.
      I'm not opposed to GMing people* but you can't do it to everyone who is alive.

      *I GMed my family through an adventure this weekend! bada-bup

  • Remember, you read that word here first!

  • We could just remember that DDT was only banned because of some whopping big lies that were told and start using it again.

    We actually solved this problem decades ago and abandoned the solution. One way to get over the hurdle caused by the big lie is to have all those who still believe the big lie actually live for a decade in the dengue fever and malaria infested areas along with any children they may have and in the same housing as the native populations. They may then figure what is actually important and

  • Why use GM? The goal is to produce sterile males, can't we just irradiate them?
  • as long as the mosquitoes don't find another source for lysine o.O

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