GM Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are the most studied wild insect for GM modification because of their threat to public health and livelihood.

Scroll down to learn more about the science, ethics, and regulation.

Nearly 700 million people contract mosquito-borne illnesses each year. (World Mosquito Program)

Mosquitoes spread diseases like malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, zika virus and others that result in over 1 million human deaths every year.

Control measures, such as vaccines, insecticides, bed nets, and pharmaceutical treatments have decreased the number of deaths from mosquito-borne diseases worldwide. However, it is unlikely that these measures alone can globally eliminate mosquito-borne diseases, and increased mosquito resistance to insecticides is a growing concern.  

 

CRISPR gene editing and other genetic engineering techniques are being developed either to suppress populations of disease-carrying mosquitos or to transform certain mosquito species to prevent their ability to spread human disease. Responsible decisions to release genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes requires diverse expertise, comprehensive inputs, and empowered local communities.  

Mosquito-Borne Diseases

There are over 3,000 species of mosquitoes, most of which do not carry human disease. Mosquitoes that transmit disease mainly belong to the Aedes, Anopheles, and Culex category (genera) of species.

Only female mosquitoes can spread disease and illness to humans.

How mosquitoes spread disease:

From: Myles, Blue, and Weijs 2020

Mosquito Genera
Diseases Carried
Genetic Technology

Aedes

mosquito aedes aegypti .png
  • Dengue fever

  • Yellow Fever

  • Zika virus

  • Chikungunya

  • Lymphatic filariasis

  • Rift Valley Fever

  • Oxitec's self-limiting genetic technology

    • broad lethality (OX​513A)

    • female-specific (OX5034)

Anopheles

Mosquito Anopheles gambiae.png
  • Malaria

  • Lymphatic filariasis

  • Target Malaria's CRISPR-based gene drives

    • population suppression​​​​

    • prevent malaria transmission

  • Oxitec's self-limiting technology

Culex

  • Japanese encephalitis

  • West Nile fever

  • Lymphatic filariasis

  • Avian malaria (threat to birds)

Who Decides?

GM mosquitoes are designed to spread and persist in wild environments shared with humans, other animals, and plants. Some health and environmental impacts of GM mosquitoes cannot be known prior to release and may be difficult (or impossible) to predict. The World Health Organization (WHO) and other governmental bodies are currently working to provide guidelines for the responsible release of GM mosquitoes. These guidelines call for community engagement and the participation of impacted communities in the decision-making process. 

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