The Zika Virus has become a growing concern worldwide. It not only affects the people who contract it, it also affects the future lives of unborn children. Offspring of mothers infected during the time of the pregnancy often have severe birth defects: microcephaly and mental impairment. It is because of these health consequences that government officials and those of the scientific community are looking for a way to eradicate the mosquitos that carry the virus. Our own country is researching potential answers to this crisis. Florida has had over 1,200 cases of the Zika Virus with over 200 of them being locally acquired. This means that mosquitoes carrying the virus can be found in the area.
Scientists believe that they may have found a way to get rid of the disease-carrying creatures, though their methods have been controversial. They want to introduce genetically modified males that possess a gene for sterility into the local population of mosquitoes. These males will mate with wild females, creating eggs that contain the sterile gene. Upon hatching, the larva will die before developing into a pupa. This method ends the reproductive cycle. More genetically modified males are created in laboratories by having wild females mate with the sterile males. After the eggs hatch, the larva is treated with tetracycline. This allows them to develop into pupa and then adults. These adults mate with wild females, and the cycle continues.
A field test is scheduled to happen in Key Haven, Florida, though this may be delayed. Many citizens believe that the genetically modified males pose a threat to the local environment. Hopefully, should a lawsuit ensue, the government will realize the benefits of such a trial and that agencies governing environmental laws have been properly contacted to ensure that regulations have been followed. Should the trial be a success, there are global implications. Other viruses transmitted by a vector, such as malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, and encephalitis can be brought to a halt.
I found that article particularly fascinating because I hope to one day become a pediatrician. Viruses, the spread of viruses, the consequences of viruses, and ways to stop the spread of viruses are intriguing. This method of introducing genetically modified males has several potential applications that could change the future of the field of medicine.
Giddings, Val. "Why Genetic Engineering Is Blocked from Eradicating 'world's Deadliest Killer'-disease-carrying Mosquitoes | Genetic Literacy Project." Genetic Literacy Project. Genetic Literacy Project, 01 Dec. 2016. Web. 04 Dec. 2016.