A deadly virus also known as the Zika virus has arrived in Europe and the US.
Zika was first confirmed in Brazil in May of 2015, but had been seen in other nations before.
How could the Zika catastrophe be linked to genetically modified mosquitoes?
The OX513A strain of male mosquitoes released in Juazeiro creates larvae that normally die in the absence of antibiotics, which is supposed to help decimate wild mosquito populations when these males are released in the wild.
Problem here being of course, that “life, uh, finds a way”. An estimated 3-4% of the larvae survive to adulthood in the absence of the tetracycline antibiotic. These larvae should then be free to go on and reproduce and pass on their genes.
In fact, they may be the only ones that are passing on their genes in places that have their wild mosquito population decimated by these experiments.
What is the effect on these mosquitoes that grow up with a mutilated genome? It is thought that this should introduce a fitness cost, that is, they should have greater difficulty surviving.
What do we know about these mosquitoes? Has adequate research ever been done on how a genetically mutilated mosquito copes with viral infections? Could the mosquito be more susceptible to certain pathogens, that it then passes on to humans?
If a pathogen like the Zika virus can thrive in the mosquito without restraint, it could evolve into something far more dangerous than its original incarnation, pulling the lever on the slot machine with every replication until it hits the genetic jackpot.