GM mosquito
© Reuters
Scientists are planning to wipe out a host of dangerous diseases by unleashing millions of genetically modified mosquitoes into the wild so they will have sex with their deadly cousins. And then kill them.

The mosquito species Aedes aegypti carries a number of viruses and diseases, including dengue fever, chikungunya, Zika and yellow fever.

Now scientists in Brazil are preparing to release mutant bugs that will mate with female mosquitos and spawn babies with a genetic flaw that causes them to die off quickly.

British biotech firm Oxitec is behind the genetically modified (GM) insects, that will be produced in a factory before being released into the wild.

The GM mosquito, also known as OX513A, was specially designed to help control mosquito-borne diseases.

"What we do here is eliminate the mosquitoes that transmit the virus," said Oxitec biologist Karla Tepedino.

"By eliminating the vector, we eliminate the disease."

Comment: However Nature has a way of turning the tables; by eliminating one vector another may take its place: Oxitec finally admits major risk in technology: GM mosquitoes may increase numbers of disease carrying Asian Tiger mosquito

Oxitec president Hadyn Parry said a factory in Piracicaba, northwest of Sao Paulo, can produce up to 60 million GM mosquitoes a week.

"We can use this as a hub for Brazil," Parry said of the "first and biggest" factory of GM mosquitoes.

Trials of GM bugs in Panama and the Cayman Islands between 2011 and 2014 saw the Aedes aegypti population drop by 90 percent, according to Oxitec.

Oxitec's Genetically Modified Mosquitoes: A Credible Approach to Dengue Fever?

Results from the Cayman Islands suggest this technology is very ineffective at reducing wild mosquito population numbers, requiring 2.8 million GM adult male mosquitoes to be released per week to suppress a wild population of only 20,000 mosquitoes(10,000 males). Monitoring of populations has in any case been insufficient to establish whether wild males are simply moving to the control areas surrounding the releases. In the Cayman Islands, the mosquito population was observed to increase in the control area as the population in the release area decreased, and this is also seen in the very limited information available from Brazil.

The firm is currently waiting for permission from health authorities to release the bugs.

Some are critical of the so-called transgenic organisms, however, especially beyond the confines of field trials.

The World Health Organization (WHO) agreed the technology "has demonstrated the ability to reduce the [mosquito] population in small-scale field trials," but said there is still "an absence of data on epidemiological impact."