Florida Releases Genetically Modified Mosquitoes in Hopes to Reduce Spread of Disease

A handbook is seen at Florida Keys Mosquito Control District headquarters, in Marathon, Florida, U.S. May 4, 2021. REUTERS/Marco Bello REUTERS

(Reuters) – Genetically modified mosquitoes have been released for the first time in the United States, taking flight in the Florida Keys in a pilot program intended to reduce the spread of deadly diseases such as dengue, yellow fever and the Zika virus. 

After an odyssey spanning more than a decade to secure regulatory approval, British-based biotechnology firm Oxitec, along with the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District (FKMCD)launched the project in hope of reducing the Aedes aegypti species that spread the diseases.

While Oxitec and local authorities have high hopes for the program, local residents and environmental groups worry that not enough is known about the long-term effects of the new technology. 

Nevertheless, the Environmental Protection Agency granted an experimental use permit (EUP) to Oxitec on May 1.

A half-dozen boxes containing the OX5034 mosquito created by Oxitec have been deployed in the Florida Keys, an archipelago stretching 120 miles (195 km) off the southern tip of the state.

    Only female Aedes aegypti bite and spread disease, so Oxitec has created males that pass on a gene that kills female offspring before they mature. Their male offspring then continue mating and passing on the altered gene.

    Meredith Fensom, Oxitec’s head of global public affairs, explained how the boxes work. 

    “Inside we have a small container, and this is what we put the mosquito eggs in. We also have a small container for food. We leave it open. And then we fill the box, less than halfway full, with water. We close the lid, and after a week or two, our non-biting male mosquitoes begin to emerge,” she said.

The company says similar projects have had over a 90 percent success rate in Brazil, Panama, the Cayman Islands and Malaysia.

Some 12,000 mosquitoes will be released in the initial stage, but later this year tens of millions of genetically modified Aedes aegypti will fan out across the region.

   The mosquitoes have also been designed to emit a fluorescent glow, so that when they are captured, they can be more easily identified and studied.

    “That’s how we monitor for the project before, during and after to understand the mosquito population,” said Fensom.

    The project got a boost in 2016, when it was approved in a referendum in the Keys, despite opposition from some residents.

    FKMCD Executive Director Andrea Leal says she understands community concerns but that traditional methods like fumigation from trucks and helicopters have become increasingly ineffective.

    “We are seeing resistance in some of our current control methods, which has made our job at Mosquito Control that much harder,” said Leal at FKMCD headquarters in Marathon, Florida.

“We’re looking to integrate whatever we can into our current control methods just to make sure that we can suppress that population below disease transmission thresholds.”

‘GOING TO RISK OUR COMMUNITY’

The authorities first turned to Oxitec after a dengue fever outbreak slammed Key West in 2009 and 2010, USA Today reported.

    But environmentalists like Barry Wray, who heads the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition, are not persuaded by the long regulatory approval process.

He says it was haphazard and leaves too many questions unanswered. “You’re going to risk our community, you’re going to ask the people in our community to be sacrificial lambs, really.”

There also have been concerns that because the genetically altered females are originally exposed to the antibiotic tetracycline, it could indirectly increase the chances of antibiotic-resistant infections in humans, USA Today reported.

But local residents like veterinary scientist Doug Mader says the science is sound.

    “There haven’t been any side effects to the environment or people reported. So to say that we can’t use GMOs is like saying: ‘Hey, let’s not vaccinate for COVID,'” said Mader.

    Leal says that while the Aedes aegypti are responsible for almost all mosquito-borne disease transmission, they make up only 4 percent of the total population.

    “We have over 45 species in the Florida Keys. This particular mosquito is an invasive mosquito, it’s not from here…So, it’s not part of our natural ecosystem,” she said.

If the Florida Keys project succeeds, Oxitec plans to submit the results to the EPA so that the program can be applied in other parts of the United States, the journal Nature reported.

A fatal dengue case in Florida illustrates the risk of importation and local spread by Aedes mosquitoes. Have dengue on your radar and know how to avoid it. Use EPA-registered insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites. Install window screens or use air conditioning. Learn more: https://bit.ly/3gaCbUE

Hartlepool are ‘explaining’ a monkey statue in case Blacks gets offended – no one has been yet, but you can’t be too careful, eh?

A statue of the Hartlepool monkey looks out onto the marina on the day of voting in the Hartlepool by-election, England September 30, 2004. © Reuters

A sign is to be erected over fears the town’s monkey statue could be offensive to foreigners in the wake of the BLM protests that swept the nation. This follows a tsunami of precisely no complaints. Zero. I mean, come on, really?

Is hanging a monkey because you thought he was a French sailor offensive to the French or offensive to monkeys?  

Because it certainly isn’t offensive to the people of Hartlepool who, legend has it, actually strung that primate up. Surely they’re the folk most likely to take offence on account of it, well, making them look like morons.

The legend of the monkey hanging is known to everyone in the northeast of England, it’s part of our culture. Our very DNA. 

Let me fill you in. During the Napoleonic Wars, a ship was wrecked off the coast of Hartlepool and a monkey was washed ashore – very much alive and well. Clinging to a barrel or whatever. And, allegedly, dressed in a uniform. The reason for a ship having a monkey dressed as a French officer has never been adequately explained, a minor detail. Never mind that, who cares anyway. 

Now the good people of Hartlepool, they had never seen a monkey but they hadn’t seen an actual Frenchman either. But they had heard of a short-arsed French megalomaniac called Napoleon Bonaparte and his lust for power. They knew there was a war on. They knew the French spoke an alien language and planned an invasion. 

The monkey was a French spy! It must be, come on, what the hell else could it be? Err, not a very clever French spy though, seeing as he was dressed in a French sailor’s outfit. But never mind – let’s get him! 

There was actually a show trial but the monkey did not offer much of a defence,“Oooh, oooh. Eeeee eeee. Ooo ooo ooo.” (Translation: “I’m not French, you morons, I’m a monkey. Give me a quick sniff. I don’t smell of garlic!”) 

Sounds a bit French, no? And no Hartlepudlian spoke French. Nobody spoke monkey either, unfortunately for the monkey. Oh dear. They dragged that chimp – presumably it was a chimpanzee, it’s somehow a much better story if it was – and strung the poor thing up in the town square. 

This legend might even be true. I certainly hope so. And I have lots of friends from Hartlepool and they most certainly hope it’s true too. It’s part of their sense of identity and, I dare say, their collective and self-effacing sense of humour. 

And this bit is definitely true because I saw it on the telly: Hartlepool actually DID elect a monkey to be Mayor. You know the mascots that prance around the pitch at the start of a football match and at half time and all that? Low-flying Hartlepool United had one of those dressed, of course, as a monkey.

H’angus the Monkey was his name. Angus plus hang – get it? These fine folk thought a man in a monkey suit was an infinitely better choice than some dodgy Tory or Labour Party politician. H’Angus also promised free bananas for all school children. Always a winning policy.

And, anyway, H’Angus was hilarious. He would often lead the fans in song and was occasionally escorted from away team’s grounds by the police – for simulating sex with a female steward, and such like. Classic monkey, and Frenchman, behaviour – I would suggest. 

This local bloke, Stuart Drummond, then actually jumped into a real suit and took the job seriously, to the disappointment of many of my mates in Hartlepool. They didn’t want the organ grinder, they voted for the effing monkey! Still though, he was reelected – better him than some actual politician, they’re the real primates. 

Hartlepool also has a statue of this poor dead monkey, and has had it on the quayside for ages. Now, as I said, pretty much everyone in the northeast of England knows all this anyway. The same as everyone knows that someone from Middlesbrough is a ‘Smogmonster’ (or ‘Smoggy’ for short) – on account of the massive ICI chemical plant’s chimneys that dominated that nearby city. 

Yet statues have become political in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, being toppled in the river and defaced and all sorts of fun statements made by a marauding mob.  

So now the Hartlepool local council want to polish their woke credentials, like so many mediocre bureaucrats these days, and are planning to attach an explanatory plaque to this statue, because it could be “misused by those with differing agendas to portray Hartlepool as unfriendly towards foreigners”.

Oh God. Now, come on (or ha’way as we’re likely to say up that way). Really? Isn’t it more unfriendly to monkeys? The French hate us anyway.  

The local bureaucrats admit, though, that they have received a tidal wave of precisely NO complaints. Zero.

“We have not received any complaints about the statue, and in fact it helps raise around £2,000 a year for charity thanks to the coins deposited within it by visitors,” a Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman told Sky News. 

Bring back H’Angus, I say, they abolished the mayoral post a decade or so ago. But, Stuart, mate – stay in the monkey suit: you’d make far more sense than the dumb arse real politicians.

Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!

Mutant human-animal hybrid sparks fears of ‘Frankenstein’ creatures

Researchers conducting human-animal hybrid experiments struck fear into federal lawmakers worried that nightmare scenarios of Frankenstein creatures have become reality.

Man-monkey hybrid sparks fears of ‘Frankenstein’ creatures. Picture: DailySquib

Earlier this year, researchers announced a blending of man and monkey.

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, said in April that it participated with a China-led research team in an experiment by injecting human stem cells into monkey embryos.

They allowed the resulting creature to live and grow for 19 days before terminating it. The researchers responsible for the technology used in the experiment said their work aided the study of embryonic development.

Federal officials have placed a moratorium on U.S. funding of such research, but they are reviewing the restrictions and scientific developments as Congress debates a bill to spend nearly $200 billion of taxpayers’ money on research and development endeavors to counter China.

Sen. Mike Braun, Indiana Republican, said he is worried that such human-animal hybrid experiments will cross ethical boundaries and contravene the dignity and sanctity of human life.

I mean, any of us could speculate on kind of the Frankenstein concept, let’s put it that way, which that was being referred to as in terms of what this leads to,” Mr. Braun said.

And he added: “I don’t know. I think that I do believe that there’s a genuine interest in taking so much that we’ve learned through DNA analysis, understanding the genome of not only human beings but other animals, that there’s going to be that [temptation] contagion to go beyond maybe, just the altruistic effort of finding cures for very, very vexing ailments like ALS, like Alzheimer’s, like any of the diseases that are out there that are significant, that we’re not even to the point where we know exactly what causes it, let alone cures.

Like Mr. Braun, I am against chimeras that involve the blending of human embryos with animal wombs and animal embryos with human wombs. What about you?