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GENETICALLY MODIFIED AEDES AEGYPTI

What is the initiative?

  • Aedes aegypti mosquito is the carrier of diseases such as Zika, dengue and chikungunya.
  • A new initiative thus aims at reducing the population of Aedes aegypti mosquito.
  • It comes from the Mumbai-based company, Gangabishan Bhikulal Investment and Trading Limited (GBIT).

What is the new gene?

  • Diseases such as Zika, dengue and chikungunya are transmitted when an infected, pregnant female mosquito bites somebody.
  • Males do not bite and are, therefore, harmless.
  • So GBIT wants to introduce a new Genetically Modified(GM) male Aedes aegypti mosquito.
  • This GM insect has been bred by Oxitec, an R&D biotech company with roots in the University of Oxford.
  • Oxitec has bio-engineered a transgenic male Aedes aegypti mosquito.
  • This carries a new gene fatal only to female mosquitoes.

What does it do?

  • The idea is to release a large number of such GM male mosquitoes into the trial zone.
  • These will then breed with normal females in the wild.
  • In the next generation, only the males would survive and these would breed again, with normal females.
  • After a few generations, the female population will be drastically reduced.
  • Eventually this cycle will result in a reduction of the entire mosquito population.

Background:

Zika Virus:-

  • Zika virus is a mosquito-borne flavivirus that was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in monkeys.
  • It was later identified in humans in 1952 in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. Outbreaks of Zika virus disease have been recorded in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and the Pacific.
  • Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes and can be passed from a pregnant woman to her foetus.
  • Sexual transmission of Zika virus is also possible.
  • There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika. Instead, the focus is on relieving symptoms and includes rest, rehydration and acetaminophen for fever and pain.

Dengue:-

  • Dengue is transmitted by several species of mosquito within the genus Aedes.
  • Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle, and joint pains, and a characteristic skin rash that is similar to measles.
  • Dengvaxia is the first dengue vaccine but the Indian drug controller has yet to grant approval to it.
  • India has reported 6,210 cases and six deaths from dengue until June 9, 2019.

Chikungunya:-

  • Chikungunya is caused by a mosquito-borne virus.
  • It is transmitted by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes.
  • Its symptoms are characterized by abrupt fever and severe joint pain, often in hands and feet, and may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling or rash.
  • There is no specific antiviral drug treatment for chikungunya.
  • There is no commercial chikungunya vaccine.
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October 2022
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