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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.

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3 Comments

  1. While new methods of controlling zika are desperately needed, I do understand the trepidation that locals might feel about having genetically sterilized male mosquitoes released to the environment; many bird and bat species feed primarily on mosquitoes and eradicating the insects completely would threaten their survival. Ultimately, though, governments and researchers alike should prioritize human welfare, so hopefully researchers can work out how to deploy these techniques in order to reduce mosquito numbers in the short term until the zika outbreak is under control.

  2. This is a modern approach that essentially mimics an approach used previously to control populations of the screwworm fly that infected cattle. In the 1950s they raised large quantities of screwworm flies, collected the males, and irradiated them to make them sterile. The released sterile males competed with normal males. Female screwworm flies that mated with the released sterile males failed to produce progeny. The program was successful in controlling populations of the screwworm fly.

  3. A very intriguing approach to combating the Zika Virus. I like stories like this that really recognize the grand scope of what genetic research can do. Genetics isn't just about studying DNA to see how likely someone is to enjoy salty food. It has so many more implications and can assist in solving so many of the world's problems. This example in particular brings up an important question. Which is more important: the niche that mosquitoes fill in the environment or the health and safety of humans? I like this topic and I'm interested in knowing more about these strategies of genetic modification.