In recent weeks, a company that focuses on the control of insect-transmitted diseases has announced plans for a mosquito factory in the UK. Oxitec is planning to produce a billion mosquito eggs each week and has already developed genetically modified mosquitoes in Panama and Brazil. According to reports, the factory is set to be created in Oxfordshire in the UK, and the GMO mosquitoes will be designed to produce offspring that will die off before they become adults.
The Oxitec mosquito factory has one main aim – to encourage the decline of the mosquito population in a bid to combat the various diseases that these insects are able to transmit. Already, the company has a small facility in Milton Keynes where they rear both male and female insects. This is a very secure unit to prevent the insects from getting out. The new facility is set to be a lot bigger and will create around 75 new jobs in the area according to reports.
Oxitec is part of the Intrexon Corporation, which is funding the factory and the research that will be taking place. It is thought that the parent company is investing more than £7 million to create the factory in the UK.
Creation of the Aedes mosquito
The type of mosquito that the company will be producing at its UK factory is a variation of the Aedes mosquito. This is a mosquito that is known for the transmission and spread of a number of serious viruses including the Zika virus and yellow fever. Oxitec believes that its plans and factory will help to make a big difference to the mosquito population, which in turn will help to bring down the risk of these illnesses. According to the company, the trials that were carried out in Brazil resulted in the wild population of this insect being reduced by a massive 90 percent.
The CEO of the company said that the factory and research would enable them to help provide effective solutions in destinations where huge problems had arisen as a result of these insects. In 2015, a state of national emergency was declared in Brazil following the outbreak of the Zika epidemic spread by these insects. However, the huge reduction in the mosquito population stemming from these trials in Brazil could help to make all the difference.
Will the project create environmental issues?
One area of concern about the factory and the aims of the company comes from warnings given out by environmental groups. They are concerned over the effects that wiping out a species will have on the ecosystem. However, these concerns are ones that Oxitec has claimed will most likely not have any major effect on the ecosystem of the areas in which they are released.
According to reports, nearly three-quarters of a million people each year die as a result of mosquito bites. This is due to the diseases they contract from the bites. By conducting this research via the new facility, Oxitec hopes that this figure can be dramatically reduced.