In Fresno, California, 20,000 genetically modified mosquitoes are about to be released in an attempt to reduce or even eradicate one species, namely Aedes aegypti, a carrier of numerous viruses such as the Zika virus, yellow fever, Dengue fever or Chikungunya.
According to a memo from Verily, a subsidiary of Alphabet (Google’s parent company), which specialises in life sciences research, “mosquitoes kill more humans than all other animals put together“. A branch of the Google company therefore decided to combat the spread of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.
Frédéric Jourdain, an Engineer at the Centre national d’expertise sur les vecteurs de maladies (CNEV) (French National Centre of Expertise in Disease Vectors), explained that, “the aim of this experiment is to modify the genetic heritage of mosquitoes by introducing a gene that makes the mosquitoes antibiotic-dependent. These males carry the gene and when they mate with female mosquitoes, the larvae develop this dependency “. Without these antibiotics, genetically modified mosquitoes cannot develop and will die.
The American Environmental Protection Agency is closely monitoring the experiment and believes that the initiative is safe. Frédéric Jourdain nevertheless urges caution: “If a species is eradicated, this will create an ecological niche that could promote the arrival of new vectors“.