Kuala Lumpur (AFP) Aug 29, 2010
Malaysia is considering releasing genetically modified mosquitoes designed to combat dengue fever, in a landmark field trial that has come in for criticism from environmentalists.
In the first experiment of its kind in Asia, 2,000-3,000 male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes would be released in two Malaysian states in October or November.
The insects in the study have been engineered so that their offspring quickly die, curbing the growth of the population in a technique researchers hope could eventually eradicate the dengue mosquito altogether.
Females of the Aedes species are responsible for spreading dengue fever, a sometimes deadly illness that has killed 100 people so far this year in Malaysia alone.
The World Health Organization estimates worldwide infections at 50 million annually. Numbers have grown dramatically in recent decades, due to rapid urbanisation and enhanced mobility that has carried the virus further afield.
The proposal field trial follows a series of lab tests conducted in Malaysia since 2006, and the government is seeking public feedback before moving to the next step.
But environmentalists are not convinced, and are concerned the genetically modified (GM) mosquito could fail to prevent dengue and could also have unintended consequences.
"Once you release these GM mosquitoes into the environment, you have no control and it can create more problems than solving them," said Gurmit Singh, head of the Centre for Environment, Technology and Development.
"There are a lot of risks involved," he told AFP.
Singh said the larvae will only die if their environment is free of tetracycline, an antibiotic commonly used for medical and veterinary purposes.
"If the larvae come into contact with the tetracycline, the chances of the larvae surviving is higher than it dying off," he said.
"We don't know how the genetic flow will be affected. The non-targeted species might be adversely affected and increase the risk of ecological harm."
"We shouldn't take the risk, it is better to play safe," Singh said, adding that current measures to contain dengue outbreaks such as spraying insecticides are still effective if enforcement is beefed up.
The field trial for the GM anti-dengue mosquitoes -- which was developed by a British-based insect bio-tech company, Oxitec -- will be undertaken by the Malaysia's Institute for Medical Research, an agency under the health ministry.
The two groups, through their media firm, declined comment on the trial or respond to the environmental concerns, saying it was inappropriate as their "application is now going through the final stages of regulatory scrutiny".
The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry said on its website that the field trial, if approved, would be conducted on two consecutive days and "in strict adherence to requirements" by the National Biosafety Board.
It said the GM mosquitoes proposed for release contain "a fluorescent molecular marker and a self-limiting construct".
A ministry official confirmed the plan to AFP and said that anti-dengue GM mosquitoes had previously been released in a trial in Cayman Islands in the Caribbean.
Dengue infection leads to a sudden onset of fever with severe headaches, muscle and joint pains, and rashes.
The virus has historically been found in tropical regions, particularly in urban and semi-urban areas, but has spread in recent years to colder and higher places and is now endemic in more than 100 countries.
Share This Article With Planet Earth
Farming Today - Suppliers and Technology
Kenya fights threat to nut cash crop
Nairobi, Kenya (UPI) Aug 25, 2010
A tree disease threatens the livelihood of farmers in Kenya who grow macadamia nuts, their only cash crop after the coffee market crashed, officials say. The coffee boom of the 1970s and 1980s ended when the Kenyan government failed to protect coffee farmers from middlemen, who pay farmers as little as 25 cents for 2 pounds of coffee worth up to $10 in the European market, and many coff ... read more
NASA/NOAA Study Finds El Ninos Are Growing Stronger|
Katrina Retrospective: 5 Years After The Storm
Processing Of First TanDEM-X Data Received At Inuvik
Activity At Sakurajima Volcano Intensifies
China Launches New Mapping Satellite
Venture Capital Fund Backs Business Opportunities From Space
Life360 Launches Real-Time Family Tracking App For iPhone
Real-Time Polar Bear News Featured On New Churchill Polar Bears Website
Climate affecting Alaskan spruce forests
Medvedev halts Russian motorway plan after protests
Argentine newsprint maker faces state ax
Malaysia activists hail Norway's blacklisting of timber firm
Juicing Up Laptops And Cell Phones With Soda Pop Or Vegetable Oil?
METRO Applauds Mayor Bloomberg For Signing NYC Biodiesel Heating Oil Legislation Into Law
Genes That Promise To Make Biofuel Production More Efficient, Economical
Biomass Plant To Produce Steam And Electricity Considered
Solar power moves ahead in California
Can The World Be Powered Mainly By Solar And Wind Energy?
Carmanah Solar Rooftop PV Grid-Tied System Ready For 500 Dr. David Suzuki Public School Students This Fall
New Photovoltaic Solutions At European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference
Duke Energy Changes Focus Of Coastal Wind Demonstration Project With UNC
U.K. wind farms deny causing seal deaths
Mortenson Construction Building 100 Turbine Wind Farm In Illinois
Canada looks to utilize wind energy
Tough road ahead for trapped Chile miners
Trapped miners in Chile are alive after 17 days
21 dead, 12 trapped in China mine accidents
Chinese rescuers battle to save 24 trapped in mine
China warns India over PM talks with Dalai Lama
China may scrap death penalty for some economic crimes
China's Wen calls for political reform: state media
Book critical of China's premier on sale in Hong Kong
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2010 - SpaceDaily. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement|