The recent outbreak of Zika virus in Brazil could be linked to the release into the wild of genetically modified mosquitoes in recent field trials in Brazil funded by the Bill and Gates Foundation, it has emerged.
The Zika virus, which has been detected in 18 of the 26 states in Brazil, is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. A generically modified version has been developed by a British biotech company called Oxitec.
The results of a trial in Brazil published this summer involved genetically engineered mosquitoes that allegedly fight the spread of dengue fever, yellow fever, chikungunya, and zika virus.
But scientists have warned the study had too few controls in place to ensure that the mosquitoes released into the wild did not end up spreading dengue fever, yellow fever, chikungunya, and zika virus.
In short, these genetically modified mosquitoes could be the cause of the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil and other parts of South and Central America.
“If these mosquitoes are completely safe, then why the hush-hush?” says Gurmit Singh, chair of the Centre for Environment, Technology and Development in Malaysia, another country slated for an Oxitec field trial.
Oxford Insect Technologies, a British biotech company, has developed the insect with funds from the Bill and Gates foundation. It conducted the first outdoor trials with transgenic Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the Caribbean island of Grand Cayman in autumn 2009.