Malaysia mulls landmark trial of GM anti-dengue mosquitoes

Malaysia is considering releasing genetically modified mosquitoes designed to combat dengue fever, in a landmark field trial that has come in for criticism from environmentalists.

In the first experiment of its kind in Asia, 2,000-3,000 male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes would be released in two Malaysian states in October or November.

The insects in the study have been engineered so that their offspring quickly die, curbing the growth of the population in a technique researchers hope could eventually eradicate the dengue mosquito altogether.

Females of the Aedes species are responsible for spreading dengue fever, a sometimes deadly illness that has killed 100 people so far this year in Malaysia alone.

The World Health Organization estimates worldwide infections at 50 million annually. Numbers have grown dramatically in recent decades, due to rapid urbanisation and enhanced mobility that has carried the virus further afield.

The proposal field trial follows a series of lab tests conducted in Malaysia since 2006, and the government is seeking public feedback before moving to the next step.

But environmentalists are not convinced, and are concerned the genetically modified (GM) mosquito could fail to prevent dengue and could also have unintended consequences.

"Once you release these GM mosquitoes into the environment, you have no control and it can create more problems than solving them," said Gurmit Singh, head of the Centre for Environment, Technology and Development.

"There are a lot of risks involved," he told AFP.

Singh said the larvae will only die if their environment is free of tetracycline, an antibiotic commonly used for medical and veterinary purposes.

"If the larvae come into contact with the tetracycline, the chances of the larvae surviving is higher than it dying off," he said.

"We don't know how the genetic flow will be affected. The non-targeted species might be adversely affected and increase the risk of ecological harm."

"We shouldn't take the risk, it is better to play safe," Singh said, adding that current measures to contain dengue outbreaks such as spraying insecticides are still effective if enforcement is beefed up.

The field trial for the GM anti-dengue mosquitoes - which was developed by a British-based insect bio-tech company, Oxitec - will be undertaken by the Malaysia's Institute for Medical Research, an agency under the health ministry.

The two groups, through their media firm, declined comment on the trial or respond to the environmental concerns, saying it was inappropriate as their "application is now going through the final stages of regulatory scrutiny".

The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry said on its website that the field trial, if approved, would be conducted on two consecutive days and "in strict adherence to requirements" by the National Biosafety Board.

It said the GM mosquitoes proposed for release contain "a fluorescent molecular marker and a self-limiting construct".

A ministry official confirmed the plan to AFP and said that anti-dengue GM mosquitoes had previously been released in a trial in Cayman Islands in the Caribbean.

Dengue infection leads to a sudden onset of fever with severe headaches, muscle and joint pains, and rashes.

The virus has historically been found in tropical regions, particularly in urban and semi-urban areas, but has spread in recent years to colder and higher places and is now endemic in more than 100 countries.

News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
people
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

    £70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

    Nursery Nurse

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

    Nursery Nurse

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments