Genetically modified mosquitoes released in Cayman

| 11/11/2010

(CP): Scientists have released genetically modified mosquitoes in an experiment to fight dengue fever in the Cayman Islands, British experts said Thursday. It is the first time genetically altered mosquitoes have been set loose in the wild, after years of laboratoryexperiments and hypothetical calculations. But while scientists believe the trial could lead to a breakthrough in stopping the disease, critics argue the mutant mosquitoes might wreak havoc on the environment. Researchers at Oxitec Limited, an Oxford-based company, created sterile male mosquitoes by manipulating the insects’ DNA.

Scientists in the Cayman Islands released three million mutant male mosquitoes to mate with wild female mosquitoes of the same species. That meant they wouldn’t be able to produce any offspring and lower the population. Only female mosquitoes bite humans and spread diseases.

From May to October, scientists released batches of genetically mutated male mosquitoes in cages three times a week in a 16-hectare area. By August, mosquito numbers in that region dropped by 80 per cent compared with a neighbouring area where no sterile male mosquitoes were released.

"This test in the Cayman Islands could be a big step forward," said Andrew Read, a professor of biology and entomology at Pennsylvania State University, who was not involved in the project. "Anything that could selectively remove insects transmitting really nasty diseases would be very helpful," he said.

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See GIS report on the project

CNS Note: We have contacted the MCRU to ask for more details on this project.

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Category: Science and Nature

Comments (29)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Publishing some notice (that goes unnoticed) on the newspaper is not engaging, informing or consulting the public!!!

    The Cayman’s population has been dupped and kept in the dark and to the outside they are saying people agreed and offered no resistance. What a big fat lie! They simply published some news, that a tiny percentage of people would read without even understanding much of it, just to be able to say later "Ah, but we warned people!" What is this? Do they think we’re stupid?

    This is no way of conducting science! This is a total lack of respect for human rights! No matter how safe the researchers think this is, the people who are being the guinea pigs (unwillingly) have the right to say yes or no! This should be taken to the highest international instances so it doesn’t happen again and then is presented as a good example instead of a big crime!

  2. Anonymous says:

    What needs to be done is genetic science on all the MLA’s brains so they stop sucking and spending so much damn money!!

  3. Anonymous says:

     CNS: maybe you can ask MRCU why there is a mosquitoes truck spraying Spot Bay every morning and evening. 

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is an experiment that Mckeeva has commissioned his West Bay Scientists to carry out as they are preparing for the next elections. I understand that the mosquitoes that were released are carrying green blood and are supposed to only bite people wearing red and stay clear of anyone wearing green. If successful the real mosquitoes will be released during the campaign and will be contaminated with a deadly virus.

  5. Green Juice says:

    These mosquitoes are being trained in West Bay to take the place of the "voting reminder" cards handed out last time. They will be released in abundance in 2013 and will be injecting voters with the latest UDP green serum.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I’ve had emails this morning from 3 different friends in the UK and Australia who saw this reported on TV news and are now under the impression that Cayman has a dangerous dengue fever problem – so huge that we’ve had to turn, in desperation, to GM experimentation to solve it (because why else would we allow GM experimentation on our small and fragile ecosystem?)  Nice PR work for tourism to the islands, guys.

  7. Anonymous says:

     And we thought the UDP supporters were drinking koolaid but now we know it’s genetically mutated mosquitoes.

  8. Hmmm says:

    MACKEEWAAA is you out selling permission to experiment on the population again? Didnt you learn last time when Castro tried to point that big aerosol can this way, thats what happened to your brain now!!! all shrivelled up in the name of science.


  9. Sarah says:

    Is this the same thing?  Sky news today.

    Brit Scientists Breed Bite-Free GM Mozzies

  10. Anonymous says:

    I’m not sure the statement that this is the ‘first time’ is strictly speaking, true:

    They’re doing their own experiments in Queensland too.

    And in Perth, they’re working on a vaccine:

    Also, when reading the article in full this part surprised me:

    "In the Cayman Islands, officials said they worked closely with the local community and encountered surprisingly little resistance."

    Personally, I’ve heard surprisingly little about the project, and if the same can be said for everyone else, then I’m not surprised they encountered little resistance!

    Has anybody else heard about these experiments prior to reading this news report?

    • Anonymous says:

      What they  mean is little resistance from the politicians!

    • Anonymous says:

      You are absolutely right!  This is the first time I am hearing this and one would think that the government would have respected the populace of this country enough to at least make an official announcement.Surely we should have been consulted with to determine if there was any resistance. Whilst it is well intentioned I am sure, it is wrong to have conducted this "experiment" in this way.

    • Jab-Jab says:

      Yes. This self same publication previously reported on it. Plus, if they’re working on an area measured in hectares, they could have (don’t know what they did) simply gone door to door in the surrounding neighbourhood.

  11. My2cents says:

    What a fantastic idea. Might eventually save on the need to spray.

  12. schtupidpeoplesayWHA!? says:

    OK, I am having a HUGE problem with the words "genetically altered", "genetically mutated", "mutant", "wreak havoc" & "laboratory experiments" being used in the same sentence as "mosquito".

    Anyone else have images of 10 foot tall mozzies rampaging through Cayman with a vengence after being subjected to untold horrors in a lab and having been emasculated!!!

    On a serious note, this sounds too good to be true and I had to stop and check my calendar to ensure it was not April 1st as it is waaaay hokey! OK that wasn’t so serious – but really, I am sceptical of lab tests on animals that end with "…set loose in the wild…". Uhmmmm, no thank you!

    If crime suddenly starts getting a vigilante beatdown we should check the sewers (read dykes) for some Teenage Mutant Ninja Mozzies. (Dred write a script!)

    Aside from that, I’m wondering if this much attention is being placed on cures for diseases that are incurable…

    What of the birds that eat these little buggers? Will they develop supernatural powers from all those lab experiments? Faster than a speeding bullet…! Will their butts start glowing like fireflies from the ingestion of radium…or cryptonite? What were they doing in those labs anyway??

    I am more than a little worried – scientists are some crazy folk! They like genetically engineering square watermelons and two headed pigs and cloned sheep…do we really want them using Cayman as a testing ground for experiments on blood suckers? What next Scientific Tourism? (Dred another script!)



  13. Swine says:

    Can they try this out with our Politricians?  With less of their breed that we have around, our environment would benefit even further!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Agreed.  With less of these politicians around Cayman would have a much brighter future!

  14. Bill says:

    WTF?  Don’t we get a say in what biological weapon gets released on the people.  I’m outta here!  Look on line how many people these same mosquitoes killed in Africa!  They are not doing this to help us they are trying to reduce us!

    • Jab-Jab says:

      I can’t believe that this needs to be said but you missed the point completely. By "killed in Africa" I assume you mean by dengue. The point of the mosquito experiment (as clearly reported) was to try and find a way to reduce incidences of dengue in places where it occurs. What you complain is so far the reverse of what occurred you must be leaving here backwards.

      • Bill says:

        No I’m talking about the Gates Foundation funding sterilants and vaccines in the very same GMO Mosquitoes.  And as far as the BS that only females bite thats like saying only females of any species eat food!  Wake Up!

  15. A Concerned Young Caymanian Father says:

    Why does Cayman have to be the Guinea Pig for this?! Especially with the risk/reward factor being less than ideal.

    • Jab-Jab says:

      What risk factor?

      Compared to a reward of (a) a reduction in mosquitoes and (b) a reduction in the dengue threat (mostly for other places, if this proves replicable on a large scale, assuming we can keep Cayman dengue free). If Cayman ever started suffering regular dengue (break-bone) fever outbreaks like some of our less fortunate neighbours (ask Public Health if its not a concern, considering how much attention a single sick traveler will generate) and then the reward side of the equation goes up a lot more for us in Cayman.

    • Pit Bull says:

      Because it is a small self contained place of little consequence?

  16. Anonymous says:

    Remember when we were all being attacked some time ago by mosquitoes? This is why!!!

    • Jab-Jab says:

      Yes, by the small population of mosquitoes that were reduced by 80%. (Go read the article for the exact figures.) Unless you were living in the middle of the release site the released mosquitoes wouldn’t … wait … they released male mosquitoes which (again as reported int eh original article) don’t bite people so, there was no increase in biting insects, rather a reduction.

  17. Anonymous says:

    From the article: "He said the bigger problem would be selling the idea of genetically altered mosquitoes to the public. In the Cayman Islands, officials said they worked closely with the local community and encountered surprisingly little resistance".

    Perhaps because we did not know about it.

    • Jab-Jab says:

      Then pay attention next time. This was reported, in this same publication, before it was reported internationally. This article even has the link to the government PR about the project.