The mosquito genocide is beginning. Millions of genetically modified versions of the useless vampire insects are being prepared for release in Brazil. If all goes according to plan, the mosquitoes will have a huge sex party and begin to kill off all of their natural counterparts.
The world’s “first and biggest factory” for genetically modified mosquitos is in Piracicaba, Brazil. Its owner, Oxitec, is manufacturing male mosquitos that die quickly after they mate and pass on a genetic defect that causes any offspring to kick the bucket as well. In a country that has been hit hard by the Zika virus and dengue, this could be a game-changing, life-saving effort.
The firm has conducted five field tests between 2011 and 2014—the results showed a 90 percent decline in the population of wild Aedes aegypti after the horny, modded male mosquitos had time to get it on with unsuspecting female mosquitos.
Oxitec has yet to receive approval from Brazilian health authorities to release its devastating swarm into the wild. The town of Piracicaba is currently its only customer and the two have signed a four-year, $1.1 million deal. The company is in conversation with “several municipalities and states,” according to Oxitec president Hadyn Parry.
The factory can produce 60 million mosquitos a week and plans to release 10 million of them in Piracicaba the first week that it has approval. In a town with a population of 360,000, that’s a little over 27 mosquitos per person.
It’s truly unknown what kind of broader effect the systematic extinction of mosquitos would have on the eco-system. The little pests are generally believed to have no broader purpose than to survive and spread disease. But without long-term impact studies, it’s difficult to say whether or not the destruction of mosquito species would come without consequence.
That doesn’t seem to bother the researchers at Oxitec. “There are three essential factors for the transmission of these diseases: the mosquitoes, the virus and humans,” Oxitec biologist Karla Tepedino told AFP News. “What we do here is eliminate the mosquitoes, which transmit the virus.”
She concluded, “Eliminating the vector, we eliminate the disease.”