Genetically-Modified Mosquitoes Released In African Country

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Tens of thousands of genetically-modified (GMO) mosquitoes have been released in Djibouti to curb an ‘invasive species that transmits malaria.’

“An invasive species of mosquito from the Indian subcontinent has driven malaria rates through the roof,” GZERO Media stated.

Oxitec, a UK-based biotechnology company, is behind the technology.

If that name sounds familiar, the Bill Gates-funded biotech firm previously gained EPA approval to release GMO mosquitoes into the United States.

Per NBC News:

A British biotech firm this week got the green light from U.S. regulators to release over 2 million genetically modified mosquitoes in Florida and California as part of an expanded effort to combat transmission of diseases like Zika, dengue fever and canine heartworm.

The experimental public health effort, which still requires final approval from state regulators, follows the 2021 release of 144,000 genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys by British biotech firm Oxitec.

Oxitec said its genetically modified male, and thus non-biting, mosquitoes “find and mate with invasive female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, mediating a reduction of the target population as the female offspring of these encounters cannot survive,” thus reducing the overall population.

In a news release announcing approval from the Environmental Protection Agency, Oxitec described its release in Florida in 2021 as a “success.”

The release of GMO mosquitoes in Djibouti is the second release in the continent.

BBC reports:

Similar technology has been successfully used in Brazil, the Cayman Islands, Panama, and India, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

More than one billion such mosquitoes have been released around the world since 2019, CDC says.

The first batch of the mosquitoes were released into the open air on Thursday in Ambouli, a suburb of Djibouti city.

It is a pilot phase in a partnership between Oxitec Ltd, Djibouti’s government and Association Mutualis, an NGO.

“We have built good mosquitoes that do not bite, that do not transmit disease. And when we release these friendly mosquitoes, they seek out and mate with wild type female mosquitoes,” Oxitec head Grey Frandsen told the BBC.

The laboratory-produced mosquitoes carry a “self-limiting” gene that prevents female mosquito offspring from surviving to adulthood when they mate.

Only their male offspring survive but would eventually die out, according to the scientists behind the project.

Unlike the sterile male Anopheles colluzzi mosquitoes released in Burkina Faso in 2018, the friendly stephensi mosquitoes can still have offspring.

GZERO Media noted:

Malaria has probably killed more human beings over the sweep of history than any other single infectious disease, and African governments have been fighting for decades to eliminate it. Djibouti darn near made it: In 2012, the country recorded just 27 cases.

But since then, an invasive species has arrived. Unlike the mosquitoes indigenous to most of Africa, the new bugs thrive in urban environments and bite during the day, making them impossible to avoid. In 2020, over 70,000 people contracted malaria — one in every 15 Djiboutians — of whom 190 died. The invasive bugs are spreading to important cities in Ethiopia and Kenya, and have been found as far away as Lagos, Nigeria, a metropolis of over 15 million.

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