According to official statistics shared by the World Health Organization (also known as the WHO), up to one million people die each year after due to exposures to diseases carried by mosquitos. This trait makes them one of the most dangerous creatures which can be found on our planet.
For example, it is well-known that mosquitos contribute to the spread of dengue fever, a mosquito-borne disease that leads to hospitalization, and a high death count among infected patients, being the primary cause of these problems in several countries which can be found in Asia and Latin America. A number of 3.34 million cases were recorded in 2016.
At this point, no vaccine can prevent the spread of diseases like dengue fever, chikungunya, Zika fever, and others, a fact which prompted researchers to harness the power of genetic engineering. By releasing genetically enhanced mosquitos which carry a lethal gene, to decrease the rate at which mosquitos spread in the future.
Oxitec, a company that was founded during the early 2000s, developed a new strain of male mosquitos, which can mate normally. However, they carry a modified gene that should kill them before they become adults.
By releasing them into the wild, researchers believe that they offer an efficient solution. However, there are some problems. Some researchers argue that the mosquitos could mate with females from non-target species, an event that could have dire consequences for the environment and human population.
At this point, the impact of genetically enhanced mosquitos remains undocumented. One of the possible consequences is the appearance of a new mosquito species, which could be harder to control. Select viruses could be influenced by the presence of the gene and mutate, becoming even stronger as they incorporate fresh DNA sequences.
There are ongoing debates about the potential of genetically altered mosquitos, but further research should take place before large-scale use should become a common practice.