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Cayman to start releasing genetically modified mosquitoes in disease fight

Published:Thursday | May 5, 2016 | 5:18 PM

The Cayman Islands is to introduce genetically engineered mosquitoes to reduce the insect population in the fight against vector-borne diseases such as dengue fever, chikungunya and Zika virus.

Premier Alden McLaughlin in an address to the Legislative Assembly today, said the non-biting genetically engineered male mosquito will breed with female Aedes Aaegypti mosquitoes, which carry and transmit the diseases.

McLaughlin said the offspring will inherit a gene which will cause them to die before reaching adulthood, ensuring that they do not reproduce.

According to McLaughlin, the programme arose out of a partnership between Cayman’s Mosquito Research and Control Unit and the United Kingdom-based biotechnology company Oxitec.

Oxitec is implementing a similar initiative in Brazil, the epicentre of the present Zika outbreak.

McLaughlin said previous trials in Cayman successfully reduced the Aedes aegypti population by 96 per cent in one area.

Insisting that the use of genetically engineered mosquitoes is an environmentally friendly approach to curtailing breeding, the Cayman premier said the vector control progamme will begin in West Bay before it's expanded throughout the island, subject to the appropriate approvals and funding.