What is Zika?
Zika is a disease caused and spread by the bites of a species of mosquitoes called the Aedes (particularly Ad. Aegypti and Ad. Albopictus). It can also be sexually transmitted. If a pregnant woman is bitten and is diagnosed with Zika, the disease can be passed to her child. When the child is born, it can suffer from numerous birth defects, like microcephaly (which is a condition that results in a smaller skull and brain). A regular person with this disease can receive pains in different parts of their body, like the backs of the eyes and joints/muscles. They will also develop sores and rough, itchy patches of skin.
Here is a newborn with microcephaly, which is one of the birth defects that can be caused by Zika.
The two main culprits of Zika, the Ad. Aegypti and Ad. Albopictus mosquitoes, can be identified using a number of facts. If one is keen enough, he or she can identify a possibly dangerous creature. Both types can carry the Zika virus, and as such, should be avoided, and this can be done by using the facts below. :
- Both are jet-black in color
- Ad. Aegypti possesses white spots covering their entire body
- Ad. Albopictus has white stripes, and is called the tiger mosquito due to this trait.
- Both are quite small, being a little less than an inch in length.
-Both can carry not only Zika, but also yellow fever and dengue fever
Development of Gmo Mosquitoes
In 1973, two scientists named Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen developed artificial selection, which allowed people to take certain traits from animals by removing chunks of DNA and then adding it to another animal. In 1988, scientists tested artificial selection on soybeans (not an animal, but a plant), and managed to make a herbicide-resistant strain of soybean. Over the next decade, artificial selection was used on animals, and resulted in the creation of many different GMOs. "GMO" stands for "Genetically Modified Organism". And it when Zika started to affect people, scientists began to develop GMO mosquitoes to combat the disease. Sometime between 2013 and 2014, research began to take place to modify a male Aedes mosquito. And in July 2015, the GMO mosquitoes were released in Brazil. They were pretty much mosquito Nazis, and were meant to kill off other members of their own kind. The males were modified to pass on a gene that would kill offspring in the pupae stage to females it mated with. Scientists are still working on it being resistant to Zika, though this may not matter because male mosquitoes do not bite.
The offspring of the GMO Mosquitoes can be identified by the way the glow red under fluorescent light.
The Effects of GMO Mosquitoes
So far, these GMO mosquitoes have been deployed in the Cayman Islands and Bahia, Brazil. They have performed tremendously well, causing a near 90% suppression in mosquito population in Bahia. Of course, the most obvious negative effects of killing off thousands of mosquitoes is exactly that; killing off mosquitoes. Or at least, one would think that is negative. But, both Aedes type mosquitoes are generally invasive species, and environmentalists say that killing them off in these areas will not pose a problem. And the more widespread these GMOs mosquitoes become, it is likely that they will be affected by the environmental factors of the areas they are present. This will, in turn, affect the level at which they can suppress the amount of Zika Mosquitoes. But, regardless, they will be helpful
In this picture, Bahia is highlighted in red. This is currently the only region where the GMO mosquitoes have been deployed.