GM mozzies pass on altered gene

| 11/09/2019 | 57 Comments
Cayman News Service
Oxitec HQ in Brazil

(CNS): The genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes developed by Oxitec may have impacted the actual genetics of the natural mosquito populations where these bio engineered bugs were released, scientists have found. Following a release in Brazil, similar to the one in the Cayman Islands, researchers who monitored the release said that up to 30 months after the releases started there was clear evidence that portions of the altered gene have shown up in the target population.

In other words, the bio-bugs were reproducing and passing on the scientifically altered gene to their offspring, which were surviving. According to the theory of GM mosquitoes, this was not supposed to happen; the offspring of females that mated with the genetically modified males should not have survived, thereby cutting the population.

In the research paper published in the Scientific Reports section of Nature, the authors said rare viable hybrid offspring between the release strain and the local population were sufficiently robust to be able to reproduce.

“It is unclear how this may affect disease transmission or affect other efforts to control these dangerous vectors. These results highlight the importance of having in place a genetic monitoring program during such releases to detect un-anticipated outcomes,” the scientists said.

With traditional insecticides becoming less and less effective against the Aedes aegypti, the Cayman Islands was one of several countries which partnered with Oxitec to release their genetically manipulated male mosquitoes, which carried a fluorescent protein gene to allow detection of the offspring.

Millions of mosquitoes were released in West Bay during the pilot project, which was terminated last year, but the largest such release so far was in Jacobina in Brazil.

The researchers monitored the release to determine if it impacted the genetics of the natural population. They set out from the position that if the bio-bugs were working as intended, the result would simply be a drop in mosquito numbers and the genetics of the target population would not be affected.

However, it appears that 3-4% of the offspring from matings of OX513A with wild mosquitoes have survived to adulthood, and although they are weak, scientists do not yet know if they are fertile.

“The degree of introgression is not trivial,” the scientists concluded, adding that it is not known what impacts this might have on disease control and transmission. They warned that introgression of genetically modified genes into the next generation could introduce other relevant genes such as insecticide resistance.

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Category: Land Habitat, Science & Nature

Comments (57)

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  1. John W Norris III MD FACP says:

    MRCU emails said the Cayman scientists were not comfortable saying the GM mosquitoes were even 62% successful. So as the minister stated, they failed.

    EPA did not approve the GM mosquito for the Florida Keys at the July 2018 approval deadline, after physicians and environmentalists from those islands that the GM mosquito was to be released went and met with the EPA in Washington DC. FDA approved them but sent the control of the approval to the EPA after local, island physicians petitioned for safety testing by culturing the tetracycline dependent GM mosquito for resistant bacteria spread. This due to the chemical baths the GM needs to breed.

    Questions about what else the GM process changed in the GM insects DNA were never answered, because they claimed the insects would 100% die out. The study in Brazil is just one study but raises questions as to what genes are being changed and could the hybrid insect be more disease prone. Questions should have been addressed prior to release.

    Science has plenty of concerns with these GM insects. Marketing and political strong arming should be added to the questions.

    I’m the physician who authored the Florida physician petition, submitted it it to the FDA, presented it to the EPA with a representative of the environmental coalition who discussed data/ Genetic concerns in the environment. For my trouble I got a rebuke from the Cayman government politicians when the data on resistance exposure of the population was to be reported. More interesting is that somehow the freedom of information act email release was missing the emails concerning my visit. I can provide to your press on request.

    The MRCU was very impressive. The people in charge really care about the cayman people. It seemed an anvil fell from up high politically. Especially odd was the fact we met in December 2018 and the Cayman News published my concern in October 2018. The rebuke came in February 2019. See the article yourself at

    Typed on a handheld so please excuse typos

  2. Anonymous says:

    Your mom is just a theory.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The anti-biotic Tetracycline, which isn’t naturally occurring in nature, was used by Oxitec as the genetic antidote switch to limit/restrict offspring viability. They found in Brazil that there were sufficient agrarian runoff sources of tetracycline, in high enough concentrations, to allow higher than expected regeneration. Whereas, the only rivers in West Bay are surnames, and there are no industrial cattle farms.

  4. Jarasta Park says:

    “Life, Uh, Finds a Way.”

    Fast forward.many, many years later to where scientists extract DNA from one of these modified ‘squitos.🦕 👀

  5. Dr. Deb says:

    There will be hell to pay when we mess with Mother Nature!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Another expensive mess under the leadership of Premier Alden McLaughlin and Ministry of Health officials led by Jennifer Ahearn and Nancy Bernard.
    When will persons be held accountable in the civil service? When will Cayman realize everything Alden touches turns to an dung? He has the reverse of the Midas touch or is cursed

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for publishing this.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I think I was bitten by a genetically modified mosquito and now I’ve begun to turn into a mosquito. I think this because my kids keep telling me to stop bugging them.

  9. Anonymous says:

    From the actual scientific article
    A) “Release of this strain in large numbers has been efective in reducing populations of Ae. aegypti by up to 85%.”
    B) “it is known that, under laboratory conditions, 3–4% of the ofspring from matings of OX513A with wild type do survive to adulthood”

    So in other words the programme worked as expected (a few survived) and can be effective in reducing mosquito populations. So nothing new here. 3-4% of an 85% reduced population having some additional genetic material is still a good thing when talking about a pest transmitting several different debilitating diseases.

    • Anonymous says:

      The sample in Brazil had access to water contaminated with agrarian antibiotics which allowed higher survival rates. This has been covered before. The release areas in Cayman didn’t have pools of antibiotic-laden water, nor is there any evidence of regeneration here.

  10. Anonymous says:

    In science we trust. NOT! This is exactly what I had said back than about the experiment. One thing happens in a lab, another in nature. Messing up with genes (any) must be banned around the world.

    • Anonymous says:

      You trust science every time you go to the doctor for the flu and swallow pills synthetically discovered and created by scientists.

      That insulin that saves your grandma’s life every day? She trusts science.

      Those vaccines that we give our kids to prevent disease? Science.

      • Anonymous says:

        I do not take pills, vaccinate and go to the doctors. Old fashioned castor pack and ginger lemon tea do wonders. My grandma taught me about it. She has no diabetes.

      • Anonymous says:

        Welcome to the world of science deniers. The fact that there’s an “anti-vaxxers” movement, a revitalized Flat Earth Society, all sorts of people who believe Donald Trump when he says climate change is a hoax perpetrated by China tell you that people will believe any conspiracy theory out there. I’m surprised people aren’t convinced that GM mozzies are a way of infecting humans with alien DNA al la the “X-Files.”

    • Mossie says:

      I have the BRCA gene which almost invariably leads to some form of cancer. If someone comes up with a treatment to eliminate that gene I would take it without question.

      • Anonymous says:

        We all have cancer cells at all times. Some are dormant as seeds in the ground, waiting for favorable conditions to sprout. Some never sprout. You might as well “eliminate” all genes, whatever that means. Environment determines if cancer cells get green light.

        • Anonymous says:

          Well Cayman seems to have a particularly high prevalance of cancer – amongst expats as well as Caymanians. Apart from the sun radiation, I’m guessing mozzie chemicals and the dump leaching and polluting the air.

    • Leave the science to the adults says:

      You do realize that domestication ( which is genetic modification the slow way) is what humans have been doing for thousands of years with plants and animals

      We find life with traits we like the woolliest sheep, the corn with the most kernels, the grain that survives best in our environment and we control their reproduction while monitoring for traits that we prefer

      Fear-mongering about genetic modification is on the same level of people who claim vaccines cause autism, there is no basis in reality and it just displays a clear lack of understand of the subject matter

      Of course scientists should be careful with their work to prevent accidents and risks, but as with anything there are always risks

      None of you complain about genetic modification when you are biting into a chunk of relatively seedless watermelon ( look up what melons originally looked like before we altered their genomes)
      Or eating the perfect apple that is delicate enough to crunch into but hardy enough to survive journeys involving thousands of miles in modern transportation
      Do you complain when you show up to the grocery store and find thousands upon thousands of eggs from chickens bred to lay hundreds of eggs annually rather than laying them once a year like the original species?

      Just stick to what you actually have a grasp of and leave the science to the adults

      • Anonymous says:

        You are confusing Hybrid with GMO.
        – a hybrid is the offspring resulting from combining the qualities of two organisms of different breeds, varieties, species or genera through sexual reproduction.
        – GMO varieties are created in a lab using high-tech techniques like gene-splicing.

        • Anonymous says:

          So what’s your point? Labs are bad?

          • Anonymous says:

            Labs are like toys for the children. Did you watch DIAGNOSIS, new on Netflix? You will see a “scientist” who spent 20 years in a lab working on a particular gene and mice and it NEVER crossed her mind that there are living breathing suffering humans who have that gene mutations. For 20 years she played with the gene and mice, delivering NOTHING.

      • Anonymous says:

        3:06 you have to be kidding for you have no idea what you’re talking about. It is shocking how dumb people are..

      • Anonymous says:

        3:06 do you realize how shockingly uneducated you are? You must be 90 years old who never went to school.

  11. Anon says:

    OMG!!! Thanks for the laugh! Did anyone actually think this was going to work? I don’t see any hands up!

    I’m sure the only ones convinced of how efficient this release of GM mosquitoes was Government!

    This is what happens when you mess with Mother Nature!

    • Anonymous says:

      This is not a laughing matter.

    • Anonymous says:

      It worked, just not as effective for the cost and they hoped. 3-4% didn’t die and reproduced.. oh wow. Population rebound happens in some cases where the females refuse to mate with the GM mozzies.

      So they switched back fully to the cheaper primitive option – spraying a bunch of chemicals from the air.

      Imma leave this here for ya since we’re interpreting the paper for our own liking:

      “The results of our tests of the infectivity of one strain each of the dengue and Zika viruses in females of the OX513A strain and the Jacobina natural population (before releases) indicate NO SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCES”

  12. Anonymous says:

    Another epic money wasting blunder by government! And you wonder why the head of the mosquito research unit picked up and left Cayman?? He knew this experiment was a total disaster and waste of money!

    Who knows what the long term outcome of this will be!?

  13. Anonymous says:

    BIG time B.S.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Because instead of eliminating a new generation of mosquitoes, we seem to have adjusted their genes, and we don’t really understand how. So for example, we may have made the resident population more resistant to insecticides. The genes cant be transmitted to us sure – but if we have made the Aedes harder to kill we haven’t helped the situation but made it worse.

    • Anonymous says:

      The actual research says it reduced the population 85%. No evidence of resistance to insecticides.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Okay.. and?

    Can a fly mate with a butterfly?

    Can a human mate with a chicken?

    Genes are not viruses – they can’t be transmitted to us or other animals. I don’t get why the duo is up in arms again. Ah boy.. ignorance is bliss.

    • Anonymous says:

      Seriously? How dumb can you be? Did you even read all the way to the end?

    • Anonymous says:

      It could create new species of mosquitoes that could carry new or mutated, more lethal viruses. An existing harmless virus could become so virulent that it would wipe out world’s population. Always think butterfly effect when messing with nature.

      • Anonymous says:

        Heads up – UV rays damage and mutate animal DNA all day. You’re overreacting.

        • Anonymous says:

          You are confusing a natural process, designed by a creator, whoever/whatever it is, with gene splicing in a lab. Most damage to DNA is repaired by the organism itself. Your/animal cells have ways of fixing most of the damage, most of the time.

      • Anonymous says:

        Not really.

    • Anonymous says:

      When you mess with mother nature and science, anything can happen. We don’t know how this is going to negatively affect us just yet. Give it some time. It will come. Always been against this project.

    • Anonymous says:

      Diseases could cross over from different insects, different mosquitoes types when genetically modified mosquitoes were created in a lab and released in nature.

    • Anonymous says:

      because it sounds like we got conned. This program wasn’t cheap.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think the reason why this is of interest, is that the CIG and Oxitec made so many claims about the efficacy and safety of this GM ‘technology’ and refused to take any notice of legitimate concerns raised by opponents. Wasn’t gene transfer impossible?

      The ‘fear mongering’ that if these mosquitoes weren’t deployed in Cayman, pregnant women would be at serious risk of giving birth to babies with microcephaly, was astonishing.

      Remember, the Cayman Islands was the first country in the world to first release GMMs in East End in 2009/10. This trial was conducted in secret and was criticized by leading international scientists as being premature in terms of potential consequences. As such, the CIG permitted this experiment on its own people

      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks for posting this as I noticed only the recent WB release is mentioned when many of us can remember the original release you refer to. I lived over in the East at the time and was livid when I found out we were unknowing lab rats for Oxitec with CIG blessing.

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