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Gene-Editing Mosquitoes To Be Infertile Backfired Spectacularly

Mosquitoes are pests that can be out-and-out dangerous as carriers of diseases like dengue, yellow fever, zika, and malaria. An innovative plan to control their numbers was simple: genetically modify mosquitoes so their offsprings are unviable and immediately die, merge them with disease-spreading bugs in the wild to possibly cause the population drop off. Unfortunately, a test of this didn’t quite pan out in Brazil.

According to a research published in Nature Scientific Reports last week, the genetically altered mosquitoes did breed with the wild population, and for a fleeting period the number of mosquitoes in Jacobino, Brazil did plunge. But just 18 months later the population bounced right back up. And as per New Atlas reports the worst part is that the new genetic hybrids maybe even more resilient to such attempts to quell their numbers in future.

Yale researcher Jeffrey Powell, one of the researchers behind the new paper, told New Atlas, “The claim was that genes from the release strain would not get into the general population because offspring would die. That obviously was not what happened.”

In Brazil, the wild female mozzies mated with the gene-hacked population of Male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to create a new sort of genetic hybrid that’s not weak as expected but even more robust than the wild bugs were. Worse still, the genetic experiment may have made mosquitoes even more resilient due to their wider gene pool.

Scientists have assured the public that the mixed breeds pose no extra health risk, but there is still a cause for concern as it’s yet unclear how this will affect disease transmission or other control methods.

Powell told New Atlas, “It is the unanticipated outcome that is concerning”.

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