Oxitec CEO Hadyn Parry to use GMO mosquitoes to fight Zika virus

Global Business

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The United Nations says the Zika virus has a strong chance of advancing across the Americas. Only Canada and Chile have been unaffected so far as the mosquito that transmits the virus has never been seen in those countries.

The Zika virus has been linked with brain damage in nearly four thousand babies in Brazil. One British biotech firm is using its expertise to contain the disease and is turning to genetic modification.

Oxitec is that company, and it is mating sterile male mosquitoes with virus-carrying females, with promising early results.

CCTV America’s Rachelle Akuffo spoke to the CEO Hadyn Parry of Oxitec about the possibilities and pitfalls of his approach.

Oxitec CEO Hadyn Parry to use GMO mosquitoes to fight Zika virus

Oxitec CEO Hadyn Parry to use GMO mosquitoes to fight Zika virus

The United Nations says the Zika virus has a strong chance of advancing across the Americas. Only Canada and Chile have been unaffected so far as the mosquito that transmits the virus has never been seen in those countries. The Zika virus has been linked with brain damage in nearly four thousand babies in Brazil. One British biotech firm is using its expertise to contain the disease and is turning to genetic modification. Oxitec is that company, and it is mating sterile male mosquitoes with virus-carrying females, with promising early results. CCTV America's Rachelle Akuffo spoke to the CEO Hadyn Parry of Oxitec about the possibilities and pitfalls of his approach.


Tropical region health expert Stephen Higgs on the Zika virus

CCTV America’s Mike Walter spoke to Stephen Higgs, the President of the American Society of Tropical medicine and hygiene.

Tropical region health expert Stephen Higgs on the Zika virus

Tropical region health expert Stephen Higgs on the Zika virus

CCTV America’s Mike Walter spoke to Stephen Higgs, the President of the American Society of Tropical medicine and hygiene.

  • Andrew Kramer

    Hadyn Parry has no credibility whatsoever. This claim is FALSE! “Oxitec is that company, and it is mating sterile male mosquitoes with virus-carrying females, with promising early results.”

    This is the same type of FAKE CLAIM Hadyn Parry made during a townhall meeting in Key West, Oxitec claiming, “we can do this male only release so we can release the insect is safe if you like, and not release both male and female together”

    However, this fabricated claim was later exposed during the same meeting and Oxitec was forced to admit about 1 in 1500 mosquitoes released will be female.

    Anyone who isn’t “the lunatic fringe” can do the basic math here and see that millions of mosquitoes are being planned for release which means thousands of females will be released. Of course, that means it is virtually impossible that
    humans would NOT be bitten by a modified female, when they are released.

    Hadyn Parry made yet another FAKE CLAIM at the same meeting claiming “we’ll send out the males and like most males they are biologically programmed to look for females. They’ll mate. The female will lay eggs and they won’t survive up to adults.”

    It isn’t until Oxitec was called out by an audience member for spreading misinformation that Oxitec admits, “indeed 3-4% of the the offspring that inherit one copy of this gene survive to adult” That is still different then what they say on their website where 3-5% survive and in their own study where they admit 18% or more survive in the presence of cat food.

    Oxitec was forced to admit, at another townhall meeting in Key West, that their trials have all been too small to have any impact on any mosquito borne diseases.

    Plenty of scientists also doubt it would reduce mosquito borne diseases. For example, entomologist Phil Lounibos has suggested that he has not seen any background evidence that GE mosquitoes would control dengue.

    Not only that, but they are initially increasing the mosquito population during these releases which means increased risk of mosquito borne diseases! Females released may increase risk of dengue and other mosquito borne diseases. Oxitec ignorantly claims the females they may release don’t have dengue so there is nothing to worry about. However, male Aedes aegypti are carriers of both dengue fever and chikungunya, and if males in the wild are infected with dengue they could sexually transmit dengue to females. So, an initial increase in females could increase dengue risk. Oxitec fails to understand this, and in response to the female offspring that survive they claimed, “due to the biology of the disease. Female mosquitoes emerge as adults without the pathogen (e.g. dengue virus).” Transovarial transmission of dengue virus in Aedes aegypti is well documented so the fact that Oxitec was unaware of this or purposely avoided mentioning this in their risk assessment is very alarming! Plus mosquito borne diseases can be acquired and spread through multiple host feeding.

    So, people will be bit by these mosquitoes and these mosquitoes can transmit mosquito borne diseases. Also insectivores will eat them and there are no peer reviewed independent studies that actually look at what happens when you feed the insectivores GE mosquitoes, with the synthetic herpes/E.coli based gene, etc., for a duration of 2 years, which it seems these releases will last.

    The safety of residents and wildlife should not be based on emotional responses caused by Oxitec misinformation and propaganda, it should be based on science! Until these studies are done then anyone in favor of releasing them, without this evidence, is being unethical and anti-science.