The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne flavivirus that is primarily transmitted through mosquito bite, however recent cases reported, were confirmed to have been sexually transmitted from an infected person to another and through blood transfusion.
The virus has long lasting effects and direct impact on pregnant women and their unborn baby. Other affected groups have not yet reported long-lasting adverse reaction to the virus. Prior to 2015, the Zika virus had been reported in Africa, South East Asia, and South Pacific islands. Since April 2015, the virus has had an alarming and concerning outbreak in more than 20 Countries of South America, Central America, and the Caribbean, including American territory of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Over one million cases of the Zika virus have been reported in Brazil, of which a large number of babies born to infected mothers with the virus, were born with anomalies, potentially induced through bacterial components of the Zika virus. Current studies are being conducted by the Brazilian Health Ministry along with the Pan-American Health Organization to determine the correlation that exist between the virus and impact on fetuses. As of today, there is no evidence to suggest that anomalies in babies born to infected mothers were caused by the virus, however according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, Zika virus infections have been confirmed in several infants with microcephaly and in fetal losses in women infected during pregnancy. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6503e2.htm
There is a growing concern in the United States, due to the number of cases of babies born with microcephaly and intracranial calcification in Brazil, as well as cases of Zika infected patients who have reported Guillain-Barre syndrome. Over 55 travel-related cases have been reported in the continental United States, of which three where reported as being sexually transmitted.
In effort to eradicate mosquito-borne disease, Oxitec, a pioneer in genetically modified species and British Biotech Company, http://www.oxitec.com/who-we-are/ has introduced genetically modified mosquitoes. The company combats mosquitoes by genetically modifying the male insects to make them sterile, thereby reducing the insect population. However, in areas where mosquitoes breed all year around, it is difficult to eradicate the growing population. Oxitec claims that their operations have been very successful where genetically modified mosquitoes have been released to control the mosquito population.
The company also claims that their methods are safe and cause no harm to humans or the environment. Oxitec has conducted field trials in areas of the Cayman Islands, Panama, and most recently in Brazil, where the Zika virus has spread in record numbers affecting millions of people, including fetuses, mothers, and newborn babies.
Research studies conducted by Oxitech have indicated that the offspring of genetically modified mosquitoes have a short lifespan that does not allow the female mosquito to reach adulthood. However, no studies have been conducted to determine the relationship that exist and potential adverse effects of the contaminants that have been sexually transmitted onto a healthy native wild female mosquito (the biting mosquito) by the technically modified mosquito, and the Zika virus in humans.
One of the drugs that is used by Oxitec to prevent the normal growth in genetically modified mosquitoes is tetracycline, fatal to mosquitoes and a drug classified as a class D drug for use in pregnancy; capable of being transmitted to a fetus or pass on to a baby through breast milk, which in turn, is capable of affecting a baby by impairing bone and tooth development and could potentially affect the child’s growth and development. www.oxitec.com/welcome-to-our-technical-releases-section/tr14-tetracycli…
Although there is a global need to eradicate mosquitoes to control disease. Mosquito diseases in the United States are usually carried or introduced by travelers that come from affected areas. Without further studies, it is not feasible to introduce a new cost effective approach that could potentially cause more harm than good to a healthy population and ecosystem.
Even though it has not been proven that the Zika virus was introduced by the genetically modified species, the potential exist and further studies need to be completed before introducing this type of mosquitoes into the United States.
Oxitec in conjunction with local Florida Keys authorities and local government; plan to deploy a large number of genetically modified mosquitoes to targeted Florida areas as part of the company’s ongoing “field tests.” http://www.oxitec.com/health/florida-keys-project/ This cost-effective mosquito control approach has been proposed in effort to prevent mosquito-borne disease. But life-threatening mosquito diseases are not common ground in the state of Florida. Out of the 19 reported cases of the Zika virus in the State of Florida, all 19 cases were related to returning travelers who had travelled to affected areas of Central and South America and the Caribbean.
As part of the experimental “field tests” proposed for Florida, Oxitec plans to deploy several batches of the genetically modified sterile male species to targeted areas in the Florida Keys. The company claims that the genetically modified species, causes no lasting impact on the environment, is safe to other species, and is cost effective.
The company further claims that they use advanced genetics that only affects the mosquitoes, to stop mosquito growth and development. By not developing properly, the mosquitoes die before they become adults that can reproduce. http://www.oxitec.com/oxitec-video/using-genes-to-control-insects-the-oxitec-solution/
Oxitec uses advanced genetic processes, whereby they inject two separate genes into the eggs, including a fluorescent gene which helps them to identify the genetically modified mosquitoes, as part of the process, the mosquitoes are also fed tetracycline, which stops the normal functioning, growth and development of the mosquitoes. But the company claims that the use of this drug only “affects” the mosquitoes. Much remains in the unknown until further testing and research is completed.
The actual origins of the Zika virus remain unknown however, it is worth noting that prior to the release of genetically modified species, the Zika virus was also unknown.
If the Zika virus has the potential to have been lab-created, have we gone too far as to mutate species that could eventually eradicate a healthy human population and ecosystem?