The plan to release genetically engineered mosquitoes in California

Image Credit: Vaccines at Sanofi - Flickr

In the mosquito breeding rooms of British biotech company Oxitec, scientists line up fresh eggs, each the size of a grain of salt. Using microscopic needles, the white-coated researchers inject each egg with a dab of a proprietary synthetic DNA.

For four days, Oxitec technicians care for the eggs, watching for those that hatch into wriggling brown larvae. Those “injection survivors,” as the company calls them, face a battery of tests to ensure theirgenetic modification is successful.

Soon, millions of these engineered mosquitoes could be set loose in California in an experiment recently approved by the federal government.

Oxitec, a private company, says its genetically modified bugs could help save half the world’s population from the invasive Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can spread diseases such as yellow fever, chikungunya and dengue to humans. Female offspring produced by these modified insects will die, according to Oxitec's plan, causing the population to collapse.