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Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes Offer Alternative To DDT Use In Zika Virus Outbreak


Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane, or DDT, was created in 1874 and eventually became a widely used synthetic insecticide after the discovery of its application for killing insects. It became popularized during the postwar economic boom in the 1950s and 1960s. DDT was an effective pesticide, but many problems began to surface due to its uncontrolled use.

Americans became ill, animals started to die-off, particularly birds, and DDT was found to bioaccumulate in the tissues of biological organisms at alarming rates. The American Bald Eagle, a symbol of American pride and culture, suffered such severe population declines, due to DDT, that it became a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1967.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) DDT is considered to be a “probable” human carcinogen. Despite the cessation of its use in the United States and around the world in the 1970s, it still remains a pervasive environmental pollutant due to its prior use in the 20th century. According to Newsweek, recent studies have shown that DDT exposure is linked to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, cancer and diabetes.

DDT is currently being used in South America to combat the spread of the Zika virus. The Zika virus is carried by the mosquito species (Aedes aegypti). According to Newsweek the director of the division of vector-borne diseases at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has said that citizens should not be seriously concerned over the use of DDT and its application for eradicating the Zika carrying mosquitoes. The reason is that the concentrations and usages of DDT are completely different from those used in the 20th century.

According to Newsweek the technical adviser to the American Mosquito Control Associate disagrees. The reason he disagrees is that the countries impacted by the recent Zika virus outbreak used DDT in the past. This past use, he says, has possibly made these mosquitoes resistant because of DDT exposure to generations of mosquitoes. The exposure over decades and generations of mosquitoes is due to DDT’s pervasiveness in the environment.

genetically engineered mosquito has lowered populations by 80 percent in tests.

The New York Times reported that new methods of biological controls are being used in Brazil. The biological controls are genetically engineered mosquitoes designed to pass on a gene that kills their offspring before they can reproduce. According to The New York Times this genetically engineered mosquito has lowered populations by 80 percent in tests.

The Zika virus has been largely suspected in contributing to the rise of microcephaly cases worldwide. Health officials are warning women not to become pregnant in affected areas for up to two-years. The majority of the Zika virus cases are in Central and South America, but reports have been recently made in Texas and Spain.

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