Itchy bites and a whiny buzz aren’t the only annoying problems caused by mosquitoes. The possibility of mosquito-borne disease outbreaks has some researchers fighting back with an unusual weapon: mosquitoes themselves.
Researchers at UK-based company Oxitec Ltd. are testing a new method that uses genetically modified mosquitoes to control outbreaks of dengue fever. Although many cases are asymptomatic, dengue often causes symptoms similar to the flu: fever, rashes, and the agonizing joint pain that gives it the colloquial name of “breakbone fever.”
According to the World Health Organization, the estimated number of dengue infections worldwide has risen dramatically over the past several decades and is now at about 390 million per year (almost all in tropical regions). Untreated, the worst cases of dengue progress to hemorrhagic fever and sometimes death.