Can Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes Help Fight Disease?

Can Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes Help Fight Disease?


– Ah, the beginning of summer. Longer days, warmer
weather, and mosquitoes. (upbeat techno music) If you’re anything like me, or really, any normal
person on this planet, you hate mosquitoes and
their nasty little bites. Mosquitoes are no joke. Worldwide, Malaria alone kills
over 400,000 people a year. While in the US, we don’t have to worry
about Malaria anymore, mosquitoes can still spread West Nile, Dengue Fever, Chikagunya,
and most recently, Zika. So, managing these flying
Grim Reapers is a big deal. There are even whole government agencies dedicated to keeping them in check. It’s usually an all-hands-on-deck
type of situation where we just throw everything at them. We turn over buckets to
reduce water breeding grounds, we spray pesticides, we release soil bacteria
to kill their eggs, and we even drop mosquito
larva eating fish into the water where they can breed. And now, some scientists
are even taking it to the next level and going
after the mosquito’s DNA. The British company, Oxitec, has come up with a new weapon
against these tiny tormentors. It’s none other than genetically modified versions of the mosquitoes themselves. They’ve been engineered to carry a gene that causes the mosquitoes to produce too much of a certain protein, which ends up killing them. So, for the first time in the US, scientists are itchin’ to release these mutant mosquitoes for a trial run in everyone’s favorite
state to hate, Florida. (mellow music) I’m just playin’, I got love for Florida. One of our producers is from there. – Hi guys! – (laughs) The scientists
are looking at Monroe County, this little section of paradise, and more specifically, Key haven. This place is home to over 40 different species of mosquitoes, and the residents here
are divided on the trial. While the media covered the
pros and cons of this approach, a small but vocal group kept buggin’ out on a lot of the media coverage. – We don’t have enough risk assessment. – We don’t wanna be lab rats. – We are humans and we don’t like being treated like guinea pigs! – So, how risky are these
mutant mosquitoes really? All right, so the species
we’re talkin’ about is the Aedes aegypti, they’re the ones that carry Zika, Chikagunya,
and Dengue Fever. Originally from Africa,
they’re invasive to Florida, and these guys are nasty. Well, it’s actually not the guys, it’s the ladies who are the nasty ones. They’re the ones that bite you, spread diseases, and reproduce like crazy. And while these little
buggers make up only a small percentage of the
mosquitoes in the Florida Keys, they’re really hard to control. They thrive in residential areas, that makes it easier to bite people, and they can breed in the
littlest bits of water. For the trial, the plan is to release the modified males into the wild, remember the guys don’t bite, then they’ll mate with the wild ladies. Then in a couple days, they’ll die, but before they do they’ll
pass that killer gene on to their babies. Once those babies hatch, they’ll die before they
even become adults, so they don’t even get
the chance to reproduce. I just wanna say that’s
like the saddest line I’ve ever read in Above
the Noise’ history. So, that sounds good in theory, right? But does it work? Oxitec has done a couple
of trials in Brazil, Panama and the Cayman Islands, which ended up reducing
the mosquito populations, and it’s not just the company saying this. Their results are published in a peer-reviewed science journal, which means outside scientists
have looked at the data and given it the thumbs up. We talk about peer-reviewed journals in this video right up in there. What about the risks from the mosquitoes? Well I’m glad I asked. Before this goes to trial, the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration,
has to give it the okay. They concluded that releasing
these modified mosquitoes in Key Haven would not
harm people, other animals, or the environment, and in
case you were wondering, they ruled out the possibility
of these mutant mosquitoes passing their modified DNA to humans. You can read the whole 158 page report, there’s a link in the description. But there’s still some people
who are against the trial. Critics want more peer-reviewed research before exposing the
public to this experiment, and some advocacy groups
like Friends of the Earth and Center for Food Safety have even threatened to sue the FDA. They claim the FDA didn’t
do a good enough job weighing all the risks, especially the impact
the mosquitoes could have on threatened and endangered species. And then there are others
who have ethical concerns. They think we should not be messin’ with the DNA of animals, period. Okay. So if the FDA says it’s safe, but a group of people in the community aren’t happy about it, what do you do? Well, the Florida Keys Mosquito
Control District decided ask the voters. They put two measures on the ballot. One for all of Monroe County, asking if in general people
are in favor of a trial somewhere in the county, and another measure just for Key Haven. Monroe County residents voted yes while Key Haven residents voted no. So, Key Haven is out. Now, Oxitec and the
Mosquito Control District are looking for a new
location for the trial in Monroe County. And they’ll have to go
through the approval process all over again. This means no modified
mosquitoes any time soon. But this has raised some
really interesting questions. How do we know when a new public
health technology is safe? How would you weigh potential
risk of the modified mosquitos versus the risk of getting
a mosquito borne disease? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for watching and
if you like this video make sure you check out our other ones, tell your friends to
check out our other ones, and then you guys can
also subscribe together to the channel to watch all the videos. And, side note, if you’re
super into mosquitoes, you should check out our
friends at Deep Look, another PBS Digital Studios
show, produced by KQED and they did this awesome
video on mosquito bites. So, check that out and
thanks for watching!

100 thoughts on “Can Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes Help Fight Disease?

  1. Rather people die from the mosquitoes than potentially causing a disease that kills off human reproduction.

    They claim it is only the males. I say that doesn't matter. Reason being is because if you alter it, it might alter it's self. Nature can change DNA too. What better pay back than arming mosquitoes with the ability to alter human DNA. I guess you haven't seen enough X-Men movies.

    No idea why they think this is a good idea at all.

  2. I am so sad that Key Heaven voted no. They literary said "Fuck all those who get sick.". You don't choose to get biten by a mosquito hence you can't choose the risk of getting sick. And in my opinion that like choosing for all of those who do get sick that they get to fix their own problem. When they are a part of society. And when that society made a bad decision for it self its always the innocent who have to pay for it. And bad decisions are stupid.
    Also, sick people cost alot. So F those who voted No.

  3. Why not test it in Africa? If there is no risk then if it doesn’t work, no problems. If it does we could save lives. Further more if we held a vote there people would vote yes because unlike Florida, residents are actually being affected by the diseases.

  4. Now im not seeing this in the comments if the GMO mosquitos dont get to adulthood then how would this gene spread to the rest of the world i dont know if he explained can someone fill me in on this also instead of getting rid of mosquitos and disrupting the ecosystem why not find a way to make them immune to these diseases or mess around so that instead of transmitting a disease it keeps it to itself?

  5. "oh my these scientists have spent months breeding these mosquitoes to kill off all of the mosquitoes in our area. Buuuuuut my yoga teacher doesn't like non organic milk so fuck that"

  6. why would we kill them all? we can just as easily modify them to not carry harmful bacteria and viruses in the first place.

  7. I think one thing will fix this problem: mandatory essay with minimum of 300 words explaining in detail the vote, and a vote discredit system based off of that essay.
    Why vote something you don't understand?
    To the non-science people, picking the natural or God option is going to triumph over any man-made endeavor. Unless natural or God options fail, and science has to be used as a last resort (unless it's technology).
    When I tell people I want to be a Biochemist they just look at me like "what is that exactly"? Science is not a strong area in our society, although nearly every bag of chips say "Genetically engineered".

  8. I would rather not have these diseases than modified mosquitoes because you gotta spend money for medicine to heal you, right?

  9. By significantly reducing the number of (non-invasive) mosquitoes in an area, wouldn't that also potentially mess up the food chains of any habitats they belong?

    Would it not be better to instead implement a gene that doesn't kill the mosquitoe, but rather prevents specific diseases and parasites from being hosted and transfered by them?

  10. Most critics don't want more peer reviewed research. Most critics want more fallacious anti-authoritarian, anti GMO, anti-Monsanto, anti-BIG PHARMA anti-vax bullshit to feel woke as fuck.

  11. Like I sounds like a really good idea. And they where talking about the project like it would be directly affecting them like there being ‘tested’. People are So stupid sometimes 🙄

  12. Wait wait wait…
    If the males don't get to reproduce, how will this… amm… bacteria or whatever it is, spread? We will need to just trow it every where from planes. And we know HOW BIG THE ENTIRE EARTH IS. Do you have an ideea for that?

  13. Personally I can't see any benefit of mosquito's. Besides maybe frog food. The frogs can find plenty sources to eat. The people who voted no are plain and simple idiots. If the FDA has done a trial then you can bet that it's safe. Since the FDA has been under a lot of scrutiny as of late they have been extra prudent. They are disease ridden parasites…what's good about them?!! I think idiots like these people are just making arguments because they have too much time on thier hands.

  14. I once stepped on a mosquito and dang it deserved that BUT I DIDNT DESERVE CLEANING UP THE BLOOD SHE STOLE FROM ME

  15. instead of fucking about with mosquitos fuck about with some genes so that the mosquitoes bodies can fight malaria then throughout there breeding of masses they will be killing malaria which is the problem, I don't like them but just because they carry something which is out of their control do we have to kill them all they deserve to live just as much as we do. and whilst they are at it change their chemicals that open the blood vessels, that is what causes the iches.

  16. What if the modified mosquitoes are eaten by other animals will it effect them ?? Or through bio magnification what if it comes back to humans ?

  17. Florida sucks ass! Mosquitoes are just a tip of the iceberg of Problems…those mosquitoes will eventually development a resistance to the Mutant Gene and get Worse.

  18. Heck no the epa is in bed with the military industrial complex…! Stealth weaponry…! Do your own independent research.

  19. Tremendous job! Well paced, gave you time to think and take in the info, funny and entertaining "well I'm so glad I asked" made me lol. Bravo. (Subscribe

  20. We are wiping out honeybees by GMOs unintentionally. And Monarch butterflies are struggling because their migration paths are messed up. Now people want to wipe out mosquitoes. As noisome as they are, mosquitoes are pollinators. If we wipe out all the pollinators, one of two things can happen:
    1. Other organisms can take over pollinating niches that are more troublesome than current niche holders, and/or

    2. the disappearance of pollinators can cause all flowering and fruiting plants to go extinct.

  21. The FDA is now headed by a person who doesn't uphold rigorous testing and vetting of research necessary to ensure safety and effectiveness. And the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Department suffers from the same weakness. How can we trust these agencies when their appointed leaders refuse to do the job they've been given? No! Absolutely not!

  22. Good idea but change the approach/tactic on gene tech.
    As much I hate mosquitoes, I think they didn't fully considered ALL the consequences. Even tho they are small annoyance and a threat they do have predators that feed on them which does go up the food chain EX: bats, jumping spiders (some species only go after mosquitoes that have fed) etc. Maybe the Idea is change the approach, why not change the gene that causes them to harbor the diseases? Something like what they did with the farm crops, warding off disease that were a problem in the past.

  23. It would be better engineer a bug that couldn’t carry malaria or west Nile etc. They are part of the foundation of the food chain and if we get rid of them all, we will be in a lot of trouble.

  24. You are pleasant to watch
    Great info and well done
    Thank you for a breath of fresh air… keep up the good work 🌟

    Though I can't say I approve of the mosquitos mating you did there… I subscribed

  25. Mosquitos are also in Philippines and have malaria but people with H.I.V virus cannot take traveling vaccacine

  26. The FDA are the same people than want your children and their children to smoke cigarettes instead of vaping. They're corporate scum

  27. We have a weapon here at philippines for mosquitos we have off losion its cheap and if you go close to a mosquito they even WONT BITE YOU BECAUSE OF THE CHEMICAL HEHEHEHE mosquitos hate also the smell you wont even die with that chemical we always use it to be safe

  28. It's always the people who literally deny sciences that get heard while the full 158 page report must be a lie. Along with mosquitoes, soon polio will be another summertime source of fun due to science-deniers.

  29. What would happen to a human if they were to eat the larvae of the modified mosquitoes you know there are people that consume this kind of food as their diet

  30. nature tries to have something natural to balance the population of humans… and the humans go ahead and make something to avoid it

  31. We need to completely irradicate Aedes Aegypti off the face of the earth, just like polio and other plagues. We already put GMO into our bodies voluntarily, and mosquitos inject plagues into our bodies involuntarily. Git rid of the plague!

  32. Release them in Miami if the dumbasses in Key Haven wanna contract diseases then let them suffer due to their own ignorance!

    I’m not about to take trips to the hospital because of these damn pests!

    I’d welcome the mosquito extinction in Miami.

  33. Humans : We're humans not Guinea pigs

    Guinea pigs : We're Guinea pigs not lab rats

    Lab rats : kill me

  34. “I bet in the future there will be a cure to cancer and flying cars”-1980

    “The ladies are nasty ones they spread diseases and reproduce like crazy”-2019

  35. Okay but humans have been genetically modifying animals for a long time. Even the idea of breeding specific dogs together is somewhat of a form of genetically modifying. The risks do not our way the benefits here in my opinion. I acknowledge that mosquitos provide food to dragonflies, bats, etc. I do show concern for what an animal ingesting a genetically modified mosquito would do just these are all “what if’s”. Mosquitos kill and disease so many people and animals are highly adaptable, perhaps they would eat the larvae or just move on to other insects. But that’s also not to say these mosquitos wouldn’t adapt as well! I also understand the mistrust surrounding the government releasing genetically modified insects and how that could sound like the plot to some bioterrorism sci fi movie. Just… it’s such a good idea in theory and risks really don’t outweigh the suffering caused by mosquitos and not to mention that most people fatally affected by viruses contracted from mosquitos are in low income communities without much access to medical care. I don’t live in Florida, or Brazil so I can’t speak first hand on either the protestors or the preachers, in Canada we do have a lot of the flying devils and west Nile is always something in the back of everyone’s mind. I guess what I think is… f**k off with a GMO govy but also f**k off with mosquitos more!!

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