Biotechnology

No, Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Will Not Turn the Florida Keys Into Jurassic Park

The goal is to drastically reduce the population of disease-carrying bloodsuckers.

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Non-biting male mosquitoes genetically modified to contain a self-limiting lethal gene are finally set to be released by on three islands in the Florida Keys. When the insect control company Oxitec's male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes mate with wild females, they will pass along a gene that overproduces a protein that kills larvae before they mature into biting disease-carrying adults.

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes often carry Zika, Chikungunya, and dengue fever viruses. Last year 47 cases of locally acquired dengue fever were reported in the Florida Keys. So Oxitec's creations could be a boon to public health.

Yet it has taken the company 10 years of fending off activist challenges and wending its way through a thicket of state and federal bureaucracies to get permission to launch this project. Some overwrought activists, referring to the 1993 movie in which cloned dinosaurs wreak havoc on an isolated island, have denounced the plan as a "Jurassic Park experiment." But in its May 2020 risk assessment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency "determined that there will be no unreasonable adverse effects for humans as a result of the experimental permit to release Ae. aegypti OX5034 male mosquitoes."

The plan is to allow about 12,000 of the modified Aedes aegypti males to hatch each week for 12 weeks from six locations: two on Cudjoe Key, one on Ramrod Key, and three on Vaca Key. That species makes up about 4 percent of the Keys' mosquito population but is responsible for virtually all the mosquito-borne diseases transmitted to human beings there.

Prior studies in Brazil, the Cayman Islands, Malaysia, and Panama have found that the technology works, reducing the targeted disease-carrying mosquito populations by as much as 95 percent. And since the larvae hatched with the gene all die before they mature, the modified mosquitoes do not persist in the wild. Oxitec's mosquitoes will not transform the Keys into an out-of-control Jurassic Park, but they will make a walk in the park there safer and more pleasant.

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  1. Sounds good to me. But can we dispense with the hyperbole? Potentially avoiding 47 cases per year of dengue fever is a “boon to public health”? This is the kind of thinking that “experts” are using to lock us down until covid is eradicated entirely.

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    2. Yeah, I strongly suspect that the effort was not funded nor the grounds provided by the 47 victims’ survivors. And that the Ron Bailey who will rail at length about the risks of people voluntarily going around unvaccinated will also tell people who don’t want to fund the killing of mosquitos they don’t have a problem with and risk any potential adverse consequences to go fuck themselves.

      1. 47 cases in the FLORIDA KEYS. If this experiment works, than it can be used in other places where Dengue occurs, which would save a lot more lives. Doing it in the Florida Keys seems like a good way to have a controlled experiment.

        1. And of course, it already works in Brazil and the other places mentioned.

        2. 47 cases in the FLORIDA KEYS.

          Yeah, because my point was about the 47 people in the keys, not the tens to hundreds of thousands of other residents who may not want to be a part of the experiment and, even if ambivalent, don’t want to and shouldn’t have to pay for it. Or the 350 million other Americans who don’t need yet another exampe of a top-down forced solution not-even-saving the lives of 47 people (they didn’t die, most were bedridden for 2 weeks, Dengue has a CFR of 0.04% and dropping) as justification to levvy all manner of social dictat on them.

          You. Dumb. Fucks. Technology keeps getting better, making people more wealthy and free and statist fucks like you and Bailey despite having read the books and knowing what libertarianism is keep fucking it up. You’d nod your heads up and down at the notion of slavery being evil, but if a scientist managed to rationalize it in latin and throw a few numbers around, you’d nod right alongside him and enslave all of humanity, including yourselves, for your own good.

          1. No one is being forced to do anything. I agree we shouldn’t be subsidizing … but most of that money is used to jump through regulatory hoops. Far from libertarian

            The libertarian respond would just be to allow the lab to release the mosquitos whenever and wherever. I dont think that is your approach …

            1. No one is being forced to do anything. I agree we shouldn’t be subsidizing … but most of that money is used to jump through regulatory hoops. Far from libertarian

              So you’ve got evidence that Oxitec is doing this purely gratis? Because everything I’ve seen indicates a state or municipal government pays them and they’re being forbidden/asking permission from the higher ups. You want to release mosquitos from Oxitec from your own property, fine. But, again, everything I’ve read indicates that Oxitec doesn’t release the mosquitos from their own facilities.

              Given the way libertarians feel about public schooling, this would seem to be a no brainer. Unless you’re the kinda ‘libertarian’ who thinks, sometimes, mandatory participation in public health schemes is necessary and even then it’s bad kind of no brainer.

              Let’s say they were or had engineered mosquitos to pass around the COVID vaccine or just carry around cholesterol medication, as long as it saves one life, right? Passively (not) carrying around a disease isn’t an act of aggression, developing delivery vectors isn’t a passive action.

              Anybody who thinks “We’ll finally slay the dragon, end the scourge of Dengue Fever that has plagued mankind for centuries, and all live happily ever after.” doesn’t understand science or liberty/progressivism/authoritarianism, and is being exceptionally naive.

    3. Well, it is a boon. The definition of that word does not require it to be a large one – just positive.

      1. Thanks. I didn’t know that.

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    5. That’s 47 cases of dengue fever. These mosquitoes also spread Zika and Chikungunya, which are pretty unpleasant as well.

  2. Relative to the untreated control area, releases of Friendly™ male mosquitoes achieved* an average of 89% peak suppression across two communities treated with a low release rate of mosquitoes and an average of 93% across two communities treated with a higher release rate. The optimal suppression observed was in one community wherein a 96% peak suppression with the high release rate over a four-week period was achieved.

    Herd immunity says what?

    Is the goal to kill all the mosquitos or to enact a(nother) government-funded environmental control program? Because a peak 89% control ratio suggests a new mechanism will be required within a few generations (of mosquitos). Especially if the targeted population is only 4% of the total population.

    1. Come to think of it, much lower than 80% and this sounds like a great way to get rid of all the mosquito-born pathogens that propagate through passive mating and make way for/select the pathogens that encourage mating.

    2. Not necessarily. It would depend on whether the suppression peaks at 89% because the other 11% is somehow immune to the lethal gene, or simply because 11% of the native females never came in contact with a “Friendly™” male

      I suspect it is more likely the latter, in which case the current mechanism can simply be repeated

      1. I suspect it is more likely the latter, in which case the current mechanism can simply be repeated

        But, as with herd immunity, if the goal is to eliminate the herd, each treatment is either going to need to be exponentially larger or it will be proportionally less effective (see *average* 89% vs. ‘optimal’ 96% after 4 weeks at higher release rates). Of note: the goal isn’t to eradicate the herd, the goal is to prevent/eradicate the disease.

        I certainly don’t think all the scientists from Oxitec suffer from the delusion, but it would seem that Bailey and I’d bet a good portion of the ‘test population’ thinks that, with genetic technology, we’ve transcended evolution. Ignoring the fact that you don’t reasonably transcend evoution anymore than you transcend science, you just proceed to the next harder problem (occasionally of your own making) with no guarantee of success.

        1. The 89% vs 96% just shows the law of diminishing returns. It doesn’t mean that each treatment needs to be larger. If in fact the reason for a less than 100% rate is due to native females simply not coming in contact with a treated male then a subsequent treatment of the same size as the first can be expected to have same the effectiveness as the first.

          The only real variable would be if the native population hasn’t recovered to the same size as before the initial treatment, then you would expect the treatment to be less effective for the same reason the first wasn’t perfect: females simply not coming into contact with the treated males

          1. The only real variable would be if the native population hasn’t recovered to the same size as before.

            No. That would be one variable, not the only. Regionally isolated populations would be a variable. Successful interbreeding with the other species/the larger population would be a variable. Over long enough time periods mutation and adaptation would be a variable. Which is my point. If you aren’t eradicating the mosquitos or specifically preventing them from carrying the disease, you’re paying to kick the can down the road. If it’s your money/property, I don’t care. But I have yet to see any indication that these projects are any less of a government solution than high speed rail or EVs, even less so as we both agree, the idea isn’t to eradicate the specific carriers/species.

          2. Also, another variable:
            Across several continents, infecting mosquitoes with bacteria results in dramatic drops in dengue illness, trials show

            The most extraordinary results come from North Queensland, Australia, where Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes were released in 2011. North Queensland, in the northeast of the country, previously had regular dengue outbreaks. It hasn’t had one in five years, and there has been a 96% reduction in locally acquired dengue infections.

            Simmons said the one-time cost is currently between $2 and $10 per person protected. But the World Mosquito Program, a nonprofit that is funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and other organizations, is aiming to get the cost down to $1 per protected person over the next three years.

      2. Transgenic Aedes aegypti Mosquitoes Transfer Genes into a Natural Population

        So the sterile male mosquitos are, somehow, interbreeding with the wild type. Huh.

      3. Also;

        Prior studies in Brazil

        Approximately 450 thousand males of this strain were released each week for 27 months in Jacobina, Bahia, Brazil.

        So, not only are they interbreeding with the local mosquito population, half a million mosquitos over > 2yrs. was only 95% effective.

        Sounds like a regimented control method rather than an eradication.

        1. No one said it was eradication, indeed your own link states population reduction as the intended outcome

          1. No one said it was eradication, indeed your own link states population reduction as the intended outcome

            Right. So this won’t eradicate the mosquitos and won’t necessarily eradicate the disease, it’s a taxpayer-funded regular treatment rather than a solution.

        2. So its 89-96% effective over 4 weeks, and 95% effective over 2 years. Seems like the effective level remains steady over time which would mean there is no immunity being developed (which makes sense, since the mechanism of action is encountering a treated male there really isn’t anything for natural selection to act on to evolve immunity)

          As for the hybrid offspring, the constant effective rate seems to indicate the hybrid offspring are not immune to the lethal gene, just that they happened to get lucky once

          1. As for the hybrid offspring, the constant effective rate seems to indicate the hybrid offspring are not immune to the lethal gene, just that they happened to get lucky once

            And, as you well know, both species got lucky thousands, if not tens to hundreds of thousands, of times and will continue to do so until we suddenly discover strains of bacteria that are resistant to methicyllin, er, I mean, until Oxitec develops a subsequent treatment for the hybrid strain, er, I mean until a few thousand hybrids get lucky. Again, the distinction being that every last person who refused antibiotics and died paid from their own pocket (nominally anyway) and only exposed/sacrificed their own body.

  3. Wouldn’t it be kind of cool if we could transform the keys “into an out-of-control Jurassic Park”?

    1. I don’t know what film Ron was watching, but the one I saw had an employee mauled to death within the first minute, decades before the park ever opened. It wasn’t until Lost World that there actually was an ‘in control’ Jurassic Park.

      Pretty cool to have a dinosaur-filled isolated preserve. Not so cool to have a park where administrators, technicians, security personnel, lawyers, research scientists, owners, and guests regularly get eaten.

      1. If somebody want to pay money to go to a park where they may get eaten who are you to tell them they can’t? Slaver

        1. +1 Action Park
          (Jersey guys know what I’m talking about)

      2. dude watching people get eaten is the best part of everything. Ancient Rome is on line 2 …

        1. As long as it’s the plebs or the slaves and not some citizen like me, who gives a shit?

  4. I’m more interested in whatever modification gave you the power to see in the future Mr. “Science won’t cause Jurassic Park”.

    1. See “Full Of Buckminster”‘s point above. Bailey’s modification allows him to look right past the “Science created 1984” non-fiction section to the “Science won’t cause Jurassic Park” speculative fiction section.

      1. I just want an excuse to call him Cassandra.

  5. Great. Now do pythons.

    1. You wanna see pythons?

      *gets winded trying to flex*

    2. “She turned me into a newt!”

      “A newt?”

      “Well, I got better”

  6. The goal is to drastically reduce the population of disease-carrying bloodsuckers.

    Sounds like the punchline to a lawyer joke.

    1. Can it be adapted to progressives?

  7. Well if we can put a man on the moon surely we can create giant mosquito jurassic park.

    Actually we cannot put a man on the moon and haven’t for 50 years. Thanks again lefties for dumbing down americans.

    1. Imagine today’s kids doing launch calculations to the moon . With slide rules.

      1. Imagine Buzz Aldrin doing launch calculations to the moon . With an iPhone.

  8. No, Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Will Not Turn the Florida Keys Into Jurassic Park

    Then what the hell is the point?

    1. You got those tiny key deer and all those feral chickens, not to mention all the wild iguanas – I think that a few dino-raptors might be beneficial.

  9. Unintended consequences…

  10. How bad could it be?

    It’s not like they’re playing with rare bat corona viruses to develop a vaccine for aids.

    1. Seems exceedingly not-impossible to engineer them to carry the mRNA from the COVID vaccines to innoculate those deplorable. anti-science, unvaccinated holdouts. And, as long as it saves one life, why not, right?

  11. I’ll pony up my 10 bucks to get rid of 95% of mosquitoes every month. I live in Florida, and I’d be happy to put the hurt on them. A few years ago, some nerd built a laser to shoot them out of the sky from recycled Blu Ray player parts. I was like,”Sell me a kit, I’ll buy 10 of them for my back yard” I’d love to sit on the porch with a cold beer, watching small sizzles of light shoot skeeters down…

    1. A few years ago, some nerd built a laser to shoot them out of the sky from recycled Blu Ray player parts. I was like,”Sell me a kit, I’ll buy 10 of them for my back yard” I’d love to sit on the porch with a cold beer, watching small sizzles of light shoot skeeters down…

      Yeah. Eric Johnson, Intellectual Ventures 2010. It was such a successful idea that you picked up 10 of them at Wal-Mart 5 yrs. ago, right? 10 yrs. later, the’re all over the place in Florida, right?

      Futurists, transhumanists… like watermelons in lab coats, one color on the outside, progressive red on the inside.

  12. First I agree that the hysteria over genetically modified plants and animals is over the top. I support some uses of genetic modification and oppose others. I never fear that some of these will cause cancers or get out of control.

    However with regard to mosquitos, I hate the little pests and yet I recognize that they are an important part of the food web. Mosquitos are a basic food for many birds, fish, and bats. I would therefore rather control the mosquito population by having a good environment for the animals that eat them. I am also willing to donate some small amount of blood to keep them around.

    1. “I am also willing to donate some small amount of blood to keep them around.”

      I’m not.

      1. You’re going to donate the blood either way. One way you get to donate it to nature as you see fit. The other way, you get to donate your blood to nature as you see fit and pay the community, municipality, city, or state, in annual installments, for the privilege of getting bitten by dengue-free mosquitos.

        You can keep your masks, your vaccine, and your lockdowns. Never had Dengue Fever or Zika, odds are exceedingly good that even if I spent the rest of my life donating blood to mosquitos in the Florida Everglades, I never will. So you can keep your shitty solutions to problems I don’t have.

        On 12 February 2020, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) reported an increase in the number of cases of dengue infection in French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Saint-Martin. In January 2020, health authorities in the region declared a dengue epidemic in Guadeloupe and Saint-Martin and indicated that Martinique is also at-risk of an epidemic.

        French Guiana
        From January 2019 through 17 February 2020, a total of 487 confirmed cases of dengue, with no severe cases or deaths, was reported (Figure 1).

        Guadeloupe
        From 14 October 2019 through 16 February 2020, a total of 5,840 cases of dengue, with no severe cases or deaths, was reported.

        Martinique
        From July 2019 through 16 February 2020, 2,470 suspected cases of dengue and 575 cases confirmed by the NS1 antigen test and/or RT-PCR, including two severe cases and one death, were reported (Figure 3).

        Saint-Martin
        From 12 January through 16 February 2020, a total of 530 suspected cases of dengue, including one severe and fatal case, was reported.

        An epidemic among millions of people composed of <10,000 cases and <5 deaths? Fuck. That. Noise.

    2. I recognize that they are an important part of the food web.

      I don’t give a shit about the food web. I don’t like marginal solutions to marginal problems that explicitly require collective buy-in force-in to work. It’s how you wind up with people across the country paying for IL’s education experiment and CA’s vehicle emissions and high-speed rail experiments.

      Regarding your issue: it should be noted that the targeted mosquitos are only ~4% of the mosquito population in many of the places tested and there’s indication of successful interbreeding between the species. They’re explicitly not eradicating all the mosquitos. So you’re going to donate approximately the same amount of blood either way. One way, you get to donate blood and get charged extra for the marginal risk (in the US) of contracting dengue, whether you like it or not.

    3. They’re only controlling one spec, the Aedes aegypti. There’ll be plenty of others around to feed fish, bats, and birds, and suck your blood.

  13. Biting knats are worse. I just looked them up. Hilariously at the end of the article it says something like “oh they’re so important for the food change”. Well I question that because those things just showed here relatively recently.

    1. They attack your face exclusively. They suicide bomb eyeballs and ear holes. I hate them so much. Someone needs to eradicate those bastards.

  14. “And since the larvae hatched with the gene all die before they mature, the modified mosquitoes do not persist in the wild.”

    Is it too much to hope that this success with mosquitoes can soon be extended to that other swarming bloodsucker, the government employee?

  15. RANT ALERT

    What is this Vaca Key you speak of. As some one who has lived in the city of Marathon located on Key Vaca in the Florida Keys; both in my fathers home in the 1960-70 and later when I bought a boat in 2012 in Boot Key Harbor where the Marathon City Marina is located and used the harbor as a base cruising in the Keys, the Bahamas, Cuba, and down island I know Key Vaca well but am not aware of any Vaca Key.

    Hope you are not writing any search warrants.

  16. No, Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Will Not Turn the Florida Keys Into Jurassic Park

    Damn, I was so wanting something to carry off or eat up all of the Florida Men I keep seeing in all the tabloids. 😉

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