Using genetically engineered mosquitos to fight the zika virus

  

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Recently, scientists have confirmed that the Zika virus is implicated in the dramatic rise in catastrophic birth defects in infants of mothers who are infected by this mosquito borne virus. The first confirmed cases were in Brazil, but the mosquito that carries this virus is widespread around the world in warm climates, including the southern states of the U.S. This species of mosquito is also known to transmit other disease viruses. As our planet warms, this species has an opportunity to increase its range, bringing additional disease threats to the U.S. We do not currently have many medicines to fight viruses, as we do with bacterial infections (antibiotics (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.), so the scientific research efforts have been focused on the mosquito itself to stop the spread of this disease. Genetically engineered male mosquitoes have been developed, which cause the eggs of the females they mate with to be unable to hatch. Several different companies have slightly different genetic modifications that also prevent the mosquitoes from breeding or hatching live young. Millions of these GE males have been released in Brazil and talks are underway to release these mosquitoes in Florida, as well.

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Scenario: The mosquito that can carry Zika and other diseases has been detected in your community. The town council is debating how best to deal with this problem before there are major health concerns for everyone in the community.

  • Prepare a position statement  that you will deliver to your town council, friends, and neighbors when the authorities are contemplating releasing GE mosquitoes into your area. You may take a positive or negative stance on the issue, BUT you must support your position with facts, not opinions or scare tactics. You must present unbiased, scientific evidence to support your position.

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