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Country deploys 'controversial' method to fight deadly mosquito-spread disease using genetically modified insects: 'It is the future'

The pilot program could pave the way for more use of this method.

The pilot program could pave the way for more use of this method.

Photo Credit: iStock

A new method of dealing with disease-spreading mosquitoes without using toxic chemicals is gaining traction: releasing genetically modified mosquitoes that kill the ones that spread disease. Though it may sound extreme, the method has now been deployed in yet another country in an attempt to curb malaria, Precision Vaccinations reported.

The trademarked Friendly mosquitoes, a product of British biotechnology company Oxitec, have now been deployed in Djibouti. They were previously deployed in Brazil to fight the spread of dengue fever, and in Florida in the United States.

"This new solution may be controversial, but it is the future," Dr. Abdoulilah Ahmed Abdi, a health advisor to Djibouti's president, told BBC News.

The Oxitec Friendly mosquitoes are male, which means they do not bite humans. They are genetically engineered to carry a gene that kills the offspring of the human-biting, disease-spreading female mosquitoes before they reach maturity.

"We have built good mosquitoes that do not bite, that do not transmit disease. And when we release these friendly mosquitoes, they seek out and mate with wild type female mosquitoes," head of Oxitec Grey Frandsen explained to the BBC.

The major benefit to this approach is that it does not involve the use of toxic pesticides, which often have downstream environmental consequences when they find their way into waterways and kill other types of insects and wildlife that they were not intended to target.

Mosquito-borne diseases have been on the rise recently, as rising global temperatures have expanded their ranges. If the pilot program in Djibouti is successful, it could pave the way for more genetically modified mosquitoes to help curb the spread of these deadly diseases.

Other outside-the-box methods of dealing with mosquitoes without the use of pesticides include the Guardian Toad, a toad-shaped plastic device powered by the sun that disturbs the surface of standing water reservoirs, preventing mosquitoes from laying eggs.

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