Mosquitoes are a problem for people and animals. They buzz around annoying us until they find a spot to bite. At best, you get an itchy bump where you've been bitten but the bite could infect you with something worse. The problem is especially bad in the hot, humid South because mosquitoes don't have the cold winter to kill them off.
You might think that people are the only ones that can have health issues from mosquito bites. That's not true, Dogs can get heartworms from being bitten by infected mosquitoes. That is a serious condition that could be fatal if untreated. Horses also can be infected with illnesses transmitted by mosquito bites. West Nile and Equine Encephalitis are serious diseases that spread by mosquitoes. There are vaccines for horses but they aren't 100% effective.
We can also get life threatening and serious illnesses from mosquito bites. Even the use of bug sprays aren't guarantees that you'll escape the attention of the hungry pests. The FDA is proposing the release of millions of genetically modified mosquitoes into the Florida Keys. The idea is an attempt to reduce outbreaks of tropical diseases that have been causing terrible pain to anyone infected. The diseases have no cure or vaccine so the focus had been on trying to control the mosquito population. Unfortunately, it appears that the mosquitoes have become immune to the chemicals previously used to kill them.
The new plan is to try and slow down the breeding of those pesky insects. Since only the females bite, scientists have bred male mosquitoes with virus gene fragments, so when they mate with the females that bite and spread illness, their offspring will die. This can reduce the mosquito population dramatically, halting the spread of diseases like dengue fever. It appears that the modified DNA isn't a great risk to animals that might get bitten but it does appear to be effective in killing the mosquito larvae.
Experiments have been conducted in Brazil and the Cayman Islands by the British biofirm, Oxitec. According to Oxitec, millions of modified mosquitoes were released over several months and they ended up destroying 95% of the mosquito population in the test area. Officials in Brazil and the Cayman Islands are hopeful that continued use of the modified males will severely impact the population of the biting insects.
Residents in the Florida Keys aren’t convinced about the new plan.There is no guarantee that the mosquitoes released will be only non-biting males, or that none of the modified DNA will enter a human’s bloodstream if they’re bitten. So for now, Brendan Spaar plans to keep using the conventional bug repellent just for added protection.