Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Oxitec is Remaking Mimic--with Mosquitoes!



My, how times have changed. In the 1997 movie Mimic, scientists genetically engineer a breed of insect that's intended to reduce the population of cockroaches in New York City that are spreading a lethal virus. Fast-forward to 2011, and such a premise is no longer science fiction. According to last Sunday's edition of The New York Times:

"Researchers on Sunday reported initial signs of success from the first release into the environment of mosquitoes engineered to pass a lethal gene to their offspring, killing them before they reach adulthood. The results, and other work elsewhere, could herald an age in which genetically modified insects will be used to help control agricultural pests and insect-borne diseases like dengue fever and malaria. ... Authorities in the Florida Keys, which in 2009 experienced its first cases of dengue fever in decades, hope to conduct an open-air test of the modified mosquitoes as early as December, pending approval from the Agriculture Department."

What could possibly go wrong, you ask? Some of the engineered mosquitoes could develop immunity to the lethal gene and pass that resistance to their offspring, which could very well make them harder to kill in the long run. Since this is for a good cause, I would like to see this effort succeed. I'm just hoping that none of these genetically-tampered bugs wind up looking like this guy:


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