GM mozzies to be released in West Bay

| 05/05/2016 | 99 Comments
Cayman News Service

(L-R front) MRCU Director Dr Bill Petrie, Ministerial Councillor Roy McTaggart, Chief Officer Jennifer Ahearn, Oxitec’s Project Manager Dr Renaud Lacroix (L-R back) MRCU Research Manager Fraser Allen, Deputy Chief Officer Nancy Barnard, Acting Policy Advisor (Environmental Health) Natasha Powell, Senior Policy Advisor Janett Flynn, MRCU Assistant Director Dr Alan Wheeler

(CNS): The Cayman Islands Mosquito Research and Control Unit, in partnership with the UK-based firm Oxitec, will be releasing genetically engineered male mosquitoes across Grand Cayman in a new initiative to try and suppress the population of the Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that spreads a number of viruses. Following controversial trials here and in Florida, Cayman joins Brazil in this latest initiative, which will start with a release in West Bay.

The MRCU is planning a multi-phase rollout of what was described as the “Oxitec’s solution” but what are, in fact, genetically modified insects, to help reclaim the island from this disease-carrying pest. In March the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended pilot deployment of the modified insects  because of the Zika crisis and after the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) preliminary findings that there were no significant impacts during a trial in the Florida Keys.

MRCU Director Dr Bill Petrie said it has proven very difficult because fo the size of the island and the currently available tools to eradicate the mosquito and his agency was  looking for new approaches.

“The decision to deploy the Oxitec solution comes after the success of a peer-reviewed trial. We believe this environmentally friendly tool can greatly reduce the population of Aedes aegypti and has the potential to eliminate it from Grand Cayman,” he said.

MRCU performed the world’s first  trial with Oxitec’s OX513A self-limiting mosquito – a genetically engineered, non-biting male that mates with disease-transmitting wild Aedes aegypti females – which successfully reduced the target mosquito population by 96%, officials claimed.

The Sister Islands of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are not threatened by the diseases carried by the Aedes aegypti because the population there remains below the transmission threshold and the MRCU said the aim is to achieve the same for Grand Cayman.

A deal, which has remained under wraps until today, was signed with the project manager from Oxitec, Dr Renaud Lacroix, on Monday 18 April.

Chief Officer in the Health Ministry, Jennifer Ahearn, who is responsible for the health policy,said, “During the time that we have been planning this project it has unfortunately become all the more urgent, with first chikungunya and now Zika threatening Cayman, the Caribbean and the Americas. Fighting the Aedes aegypti vector and potentially eliminating it from the Cayman Islands, is the surest way to protect our residents and tourists from the dengue, Zika and chikungunya viruses.”

The first phase of the project will include a series of activities to inform the community about the programme. Over two months, Oxitec and MRCU employees will provide information to local residents about the programme, how the solution works and why it is effective.

“Oxitec is very proud of our continuing partnership with MRCU. We have benefited greatly from their expertise both for the original suppression trial and in the process of preparing for the current project,” said Glen Slade, Head of Business Development at Oxitec. “The first trial proved that this approach works, and now we have the opportunity to help protect more people from this mosquito.

“Before we release our mosquitoes, which we refer to as ‘Friendly Aedes aegypti‘, it is important to explain that the males do not bite, do not transmit diseases and do not persist in the environment,” said Dr Lacroix, as he avoided any reference to genetic modification. “Our scientists and staff are delighted to talk about this programme, and will be available to answer questions.”

The next phase will be deployment of the ‘Oxitec solution’ to treat an area with about 1,800 residents in West Bay, and an equivalent area without Oxitec treatment will be used for comparison. Then, subject to appropriate approvals and funding, the goal of the programme is to expand from the northwest end of Grand Cayman, where West Bay is located, across the remainder of the island to reduce Aedes aegypti numbers and help eliminate the diseases they carry.

Although government has only just revealed the plans to the wider public, the West Bay MLAs were informed and met with Oxitec representatives yesterday.

Officials have not yet stated how much the project will cost the Cayman government or if the project is being funded by the Oxford-based private sector firm.

Activities to be conducted by MRCU and Oxitec this week include: Thursday to Saturday, 5-7 May, information booth at the West Bay dock; Saturday 7 May, information Desk at a West Bay, location to be announced; and Thursday to Saturday 5-7 May, house visits in the treatment area.

There will also be a town hall meeting at the John A. Cumber Primary School within the coming weeks.

Premier’s statement on partnership with Oxitec, 5 May 2016

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Category: Health, Land Habitat, Medical, Science & Nature

Comments (99)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    This is why Cayman will never advance in any form of science. We will always be stuck in the past due to ignorance of the old. Oh well… when you all are gone, they will be room for new ideas from the younger generation. I guess we’ll just wait, we have time on our side =]

  2. Anonymous says:

    You can be absolutely certain that money has changed hands. None of it will find its way to the general Caymanian people.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Ask yourself: in whose flower pot basins, overturned tyres, pop cans and eaves will these domesticated Cayman Islands Aedes Aegypti find the missing tetracycline their offspring will require to survive to Adulthood? Not many I suspect, and very likely zero. With little to no agricultural runoff in Cayman. Just to be absolutely sure, there should be a concurrent ban on any drinking water-based pet or livestock antibiotics from Jun2016-Mar2017. The results of the 2010 releases speak for themselves – a massive reduction in the uniquely-adapted domesticated Aedes Aegypti.

  4. Mac and Cheese says:

    Genetically modified West Bayers were released in to the general population long ago.

    • Anonymous says:

      Can we get rid of those local West Bayers please?

      You know the ones, they don’t contribute to society. Don’t think they should be responsible for anything. The country owes them. They are victims of [insert any scapegoat here]. Don’t need to pay child support because they don’t work. Can’t work/get a job because [insert ridiculous reason which is an excuse for laziness].

  5. Anonymous says:

    So what does sleeping with a relative come under, because it happens everyday here on Cayman.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I didn’t know General Motors produced Mozzies, go figure.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Trying to get rid of the bad mosquitos but doing nada about the bad people 😀

  8. Anonymous says:

    I crossed a shitzu with a poodle and got a shitpoo

  9. Wake up NEO says:


  10. Anonymous says:

    Will they fight crime?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Dont those mozzies need work permits before they get on island/are “employed”? What about pension and health ins, who will be responsible for that?

    But seriously, please confirm whether Oxitec has an interest in or is affiliated with any company that makes a vaccine for Zika, Dengue or Chikungunya?

    • Anonymous says:

      There are no approved vaccines for Zika, Dengue, or Chikungunya.

      The US CDC states:
      No vaccine exists to prevent Zika virus disease (Zika).
      Prevent Zika by avoiding mosquito bites (see below).
      Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite mostly during the daytime.
      Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus also spread dengue and chikungunya viruses.

      There is no vaccine available against dengue, and there are no specific medications to treat a dengue infection. This makes prevention the most important step, and prevention means avoiding mosquito bites

      No vaccine exists to prevent chikungunya virus infection or disease.
      Prevent chikungunya virus infection by avoiding mosquito bites

      Help fight Zika, Dengue, and Chikungunya by helping to eliminate mosquito breeding sites. The MRCU has advice on the importance of preventing stagnant water in flower pots, discarded tyres, and other debris. Such water can be used by mosquitoes to breed.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Foolish people tampering with things they know only a fraction about.

  13. Anonymous says:

    You could say the same about pretty much any invention. Many that save lives.

  14. Just Askin' says:

    Will they eat iguanas?

  15. Anonymous says:

    OH NO!! Not Ahearn again!! Remember, she doesn’t read important documents or contracts (e.g. HSA and AIS) that she has responsibility for.

    Please give it to Mr. Cooper to read over and tell us the truth of what it contains.

    Thanks Mr. Cooper.

  16. Anonymous says:

    We will never know the reason mother nature created mosquitoes and viruses. Messing up with it may create a monster out of anyone’s control. You can’t outsmart mother nature.

    • Anonymous says:

      7 larger than life people here think they can! (slow clap)

    • Think of all possibilities says:

      The simple fact that you are currently alive to write this nonsense without fear of smallpox, whooping cough or diphtheria is reason enough to disprove your theory. You can indeed outsmart mother nature.

      • Anonymous says:

        Maybe it’s bigger than that bro. May our ‘genius’ eradication of the diseases you mentionioned are just a small step in our or your eventual extinction.
        And by he way, you cannot outsmart Mother Nature.

        • Think of all possibilities says:

          Again, your existence itself is proof we outsmarted mother nature.

          • Anonymous says:

            You’re still thing small I’m afraid. Perhaps (and only perhaps to be fair) the non existence or short existence of your grand children will be mother natures course, guided by our clever hand.
            Try thinking bigger again.

      • Anonymous says:

        Man is but a tiny, tiny part of Mother Nature. Please continue to pretend you’re in control if you must. It’s okay to pretend, we all do. Just know that you are pretending.

        • Think of all possibilities says:

          Proof is in the pudding. We already eradicated many deadly diseases… enough with the “mother nature/god” is in control nonsense.

          • Anonymous says:

            Mother Nature will be laying you to rest all to soon. Unless of course you freeze you head.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Short-lived sterile males cannot fertilize the eggs produced by the feeding females. They are shooting blanks. End of story. It won’t be the end of the problem, all it does is (hopefully) reduce the quantity of subsequent generations. This wouldn’t be necessary if communities where doing their part to reduce Aedes Aegypti habitat.

    • Anonymous says:

      wrong. GMO mosquitoes produce offspring that die before they reach adulthood. Or should die. some offspring will still survive and pass on their genes

      • Anonymous says:

        If they are missing a gene that would otherwise advance them from larva to adulthood, how can they pass along a missing gene (or some new sinister supergene) after their expiration. How does that work?

        • Jotnar says:

          It doesn’t. You have to keep buying new mosquitos from Oxitec. Great business model.

          • Anonymous says:

            The point being that the offspring die in the absence of tetracycline, and since are dead, do not get to pass go, mate or do anything besides becoming backyard dust. Adios and good riddence.

      • Anonymous says:

        Die young like the infant humans born with microcephaly which is supposedly caused by Zika?

        Brazil has done the same experiments with GM mosquitoes and it wasn’t until after these experiments were done that children began to be born with deformities. There could be a link between the GM mosquitoes and the tragic rate of deformed babies in Brazil. How can we be sure there isn’t?

        • Anonymous says:

          Cayman has done these experiments with Oxitec’s GM modified mosquitoes starting in 2009. It wasn’t until after this in January of 2010 that Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake.

          Oxitec trials did not cause the Haiti earthquake any more than they caused the Zika outbreak in Brazil. Correlation does not mean causation. More proof is needed.

          The Oxitec trials in Brazil were done in Jacobina, Bahia state starting in 2014. Zika was already present in Bahia state from 2007. Oxitec trials did not cause Zika virus infections. Zika was already there.

          Zika already existed and was already associated with microcephaly in other countries prior to the Oxitec trials in Brazil. French Polynesia saw a Zika outbreak starting in 2013 associated with a 1 in 100 risk of microcephaly in babies fo women who were infected in the first trimester. Real research was published in The Lancet documenting this association:

          Oxitec trials did not cause microcephaly. Zika was alreday causing micocephaly prior to Oxitec starting trials.

          But since the Oxitect trials did lower the population of the A egypti mosquito vector it is possible that the Oxitec trials prevented some Zika infections and cases of microcephaly.

        • Anonymous says:

          Disproven – the releases were 1000 miles from Zika afflicted areas

        • Jotnar says:

          Because what you say is rubbish, and the deformaties preceded the experiments?

  18. Anonymous says:

    If it works on mosquitoes can we try it on Logwoods and Birch Tree Hill gang members next?

    • Anonymous says:

      I know you said it jokingly but that’s the first step to thinking about eugenics. Forced eugenics.

      • Donald from Goat Yard says:

        Just build A WALL! A REALLY BIG WALL!!

      • Anonymous says:

        Well good. What’s the next step.

      • Anonymous says:

        And that’s the point. Eugenics began on this island when interbreeding became the norm, just look around, surely the clusterf### that’s been made of this society and its politics is testimony to something very wrong in the thought process and the evolution of the species.

  19. M McLaughlin says:

    My belief is if we had any disease carry mosquitos here people would be sick by now, this is just a another “slow kill” ploy by the WHO.

    See below link

    • Anonymous says:

      Wow. Stay in school kids.

    • Think of all possibilities says:

      Infowars is probably the LEAST reliabe source you could ever reference. Stop with the conspiracy theories, kid… it’ll rot your brain.

  20. Lo-cal says:

    Why mess with the food chain. Birds eat insects as do frogs and chickens. What happens to the food chain when some animals insects / animals are removed from the chain? My guess is at some point the island will be void of all non domesticated animals and wants a country like that.

    Why don’t they provide the results from the first batch they released couple years ago?

    • Anonymous says:

      @ Lo-cal,
      While your concern shouldn’t be dismissed lightly, surely you will agree that a perpetual chemical approach is futile, and possibly more hazardous to all other life form (?).

      • lo-cal says:

        I agree that the chemical solution is also not beneficial however there is a natural order of things for a reason.

        Have you ever heard of anyone in Cayman being infected by Dengue or any other mosquito born decease? Is the situation here so pressing that we have to be the guinea pigs for this experiment. Surely there are countries that have chronic problems with this disease but you don’t see them lining up for the experiment.

        In my opinion, all the development going on is rapidly getting rid of the mosquito and other insects anyway. every year i see less and less Soldier Crabs, Land Crabs and snakes. The only thing we cant seem to get rid of is the iguana.

        • Anonymous says:

          To your question on the infection of Dengue in the Cayman Islands , my answer is ‘No’. However, that does not make you correct in your assumption.

          Perhaps, you could also consider this question – Are there any documented case/s of individual/s becoming ill from chemical exposure as a result of chemicals use to control, or eradicate mosquitos in the Cayman Islands?.. My short answer to this question is also ‘No’.

          I am of position, that it would be reckless to presume that the my two answers (‘No’) to the above questions has settled this matter.

          On your comment, “There is a natural order of things for a reason”. That is myopic at the very least, and a debate for another day.

        • Anonymous says:

          First of all, there is no natural order with the Mosquitos here because they are evasive species. They are originally from North Africa and have been able to spread through out the world. So if we get rid of them it would actually be restoring nature as it once was. Also no animal solely rely on this specific species to survive.

          And yes there has been cases with people who have been infected by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito here. Also we have a very large number of these specific mosquito in westbay and George Town and it’s just best to reduce the population. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

          And to inform you. There is no “development ” that is rapidly getting rid of the Aedes Aegypti Mosquitos to be specific. In fact they are increasing more and more because they are getting very resistant to the pesticides.

          I advise you to read up on this a bit more.

        • Think of all possibilities says:

          As a matter of fact, YES! There indeed have been mosquito-born diseases contracted right here in Cayman. Thanks for asking.

    • Anonymous says:

      Well, the mosquito species this is exclusively aimed at are already an introduced species so hopefully the bug-eating animals will have enough ‘native’ mosquitos (if there is such a thing) to live off of. And we native people have less chance of mosquito borne diseases.

      • Anonymous says:

        What ‘native’ people? Oh you mean the European, African, South American and god knows who else mix you believe to be some kind of indigenous super race.

    • Anonymous says:

      Let them eat cake.

    • Anonymous says:

      Successful peer-reviewed trial was done here in 2010. Google the papers and articles on the subject.

    • Anonymous says:

      Aedes aegypti is an invasive species, we will still have plenty of native mosquitoes for the bats etc if every single Ae. aegypti is killed.

    • Anonymous says:

      Aedes Aegypti are a specialised insect pest feeding on humans only, invasive – arriving in Caribbean only a few years ago, domesticated and not part of any native food chain. Their entire life cycle is contained within meters of human dwellings, not in swamps. Results of the peer-reviewed 2010 release in Cayman were published here and all around the world. Search and you will find many articles and scientific journals. You will read that MRCU is leading the planet in the eradication efforts of this pest. With the absence of agricultural runoff in Cayman, we have a fighting chance of exterminating this invasive species from our shores. Cayman will still have far too many of the 6 other types of mosquitos commonly found flying around – those are not domesticated mosquitos, and not the vectors of the diseases we want to keep people safe from.

    • Anonymous says:

      Of the more than half dozen endemic mosquito species of Cayman, Aedes Aegypti and Aedes Albopictus are both invasive pests, arriving just in the last few years. Unlike most mosquito species, they live around homes, not swamps, are not part of any native food chain. They have the capability to carry and rapidly spread dangerous diseases. Everyone can help eliminate these pests by learning about what makes them unique and eliminating habitat around their homes.

  21. Woch u taking bout Willis says:

    Finally the UK is doing some thing to control the population in West Bay? It worked in Brazil They are now ZIKA Free!!!!!! Hahahaha PPM & FCO tactic to control voters the republic dey can’t vote if they sick???

  22. Mother Nature says:

    If they are truly 100% safe how come the company hasn’t published its findings for review.

    Truly I think this might scare more tourists away than it provides comfort too.

  23. Anonymous says:

    While the concept seems viable, one cannot help but to shudder as to the possibilities of mosquito-borne disease mutations if these franken-mossies experiments go wrong.

    Hope that CIG has done due diligence regarding Oxitec, as the world is full of ‘snake-oil salesmen’ and the steering Committee has some of the same members who did not think or did not take the time to review Conover’s/AIS contracts!!

    CNS, as a responsible media outlet is that something you can confirm?

  24. Knot S Smart says:

    Thats right…
    Test them out on them West Bayers first…

  25. Anonymous says:

    Were some of these mosquitoes not released some time ago and no spraying will be done now for fear of killing them out?

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, a previous release was done in East End. They transgenic mosquitoes are designed so that they die out on their own = no spraying necessary.

      And of course the MRCU plane has been up MANY times spraying since then.

    • Anonymous says:


  26. Nana says:

    I’m sitting in my office and I feel mosquitoes biting me!

  27. Anonymous says:

    Fantastic news.

  28. Anonymous says:

    For a religious God fearing nation I find it disgusting that we are allowing genetically modified mosquitoes free on our island. Do not play with mother nature!

    • Anonymous says:

      I couldn’t agree more. Who are we to genetically alter something that was created by the good Lord Almighty?

      • Anonymous says:

        Like corn? Products sweetened with High Fructose Corn Syrup like almost all sodas? Then you have been consuming genetically modified produce for YEARS now. Transgenic Bt corn has dominated the market for nearly 20 years now.

        Wear jeans? A lot of the cotton in denim is produced with genetically modified cotton.

        Corn, soybeans, cotton, and canola are all being widely grown from genetically modified varieties.

        Genetically engineered crop varieties have allowed farmers to grow more produce while using less pesticides. Genetically engineered crops varieties have allowed for greater crops yields to better feed a hungry planet.

        • Anonymous says:

          Man has been genetically modifying species for as long as time. A great example is a Mule which is a Donkey and a Horse bred together. They cannot reproduce and would never mate in the wild. Mules were used in Jesus day and were sometime called an Ass…so Jesus may have even rode on one. Fruit trees and other plants have been grafted together to produce hybrid crops for centuries. Plants have been grown in locations they were not naturally occurring and have mutated to match. I think people need to stop listening to their preachers as who as Jesus said Tickled the ears of the flock. People today like to sound smarter than they are so now we use the term Genetically modified. Dog, Horse, Cat, Goat, Sheep, Pig, Cows……breeders have been doing these things since the beginning of time….it’s why GOD gave us a brain in his image…You know the scripture that says…GOD CREATED MAN IN HIS OWN IMAGE. Doing these things are part of that image…And if you really believe in god..imitation is the highest form of flattery.

      • Anonymous says:

        I thought EVERYTHING that happened was God’s will?

      • Anonymous says:

        Why can’t the mosquito plane spray God as a form of punishment for creating the mosquitos to bite us in the first place?

      • Think of all possibilities says:

        Your “lord almighty” also created asbestos, typhoid and lead…. all natural and all dangerous to humans, yet we take steps to prevent those dangers too. Are you arguing against stopping all natural dangers? You better be consistent!

    • Al Catraz says:

      First they release sterile males into the mosquito population, and the next thing you know they’ll be saying that we should allow same-sex couples among the mosquitoes.

      It’s a plot!

    • Think of all possibilities says:

      Don’t ever get your children vaccinated… don’t ever see a doctor…. don’t ever color your hair or use cosmetics… that would be messing with mother nature!

    • Anonymous says:

      Think we should find a gene that makes them gay.

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