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WHO Initiates Study To Create GM Modified Mosquitoes To Combat Zika

Update Date: Feb 18, 2016 09:09 AM EST
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While the idea sounds interestingly absurd and weird, using genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes to fight off Zika mosquito carriers has received the nod by no less than the World Health Organization (WHO) itself.

In a recent announcement Tuesday, WHO stated that GM mosquitoes can be harnessed as weapon to wipe off the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes responsible for the alarming surge of Zika cases across Latin America resulting to neurological birth defects including babies with very unusual small heads.

"Given the magnitude of the Zika crisis. WHO encourages affected countries and their partners to boost the use of both old and new approaches to mosquito control as the most immediate line of defense," said the global health agency as quoted saying by the Vox.

The international health agency, however, noted that further studies are needed to assess and ascertain the viability of new methods. Currently, chemical sprays and fogging are still the conventional methods in stemming the tide of a mosquito-borne disease. In case of GM mosquitoes, sterile male mosquitoes are released into the wild to mate with females.

"For genetically modified mosquitoes, the WHO Advisory Group has recommended further field trials and risk assessment to evaluate the impact of this new tool on disease transmission," the statement further as mentioned in a report by The Guardian.

Some environmentalists are quick to caution over the potential risk of destroying an entire species with the WHO-backed GM project. But others are convinced that "specide" is the most viable approach to significantly cut down mosquito-born diseases like dengue, malaria, and Zika.

"One argument against is that it would be morally wrong to remove an entire species. When we eradicated the Variola virus, which caused smallpox, we rightly celebrated...do we have a good reason for getting rid of them? With mosquitoes, they are the main carriers for many diseases," said Jonathan Pugh of Oxford University's Uehiro Center for Practical Ethics as reported by BBC.

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