West Bay is abuzz with 120,000 more genetically modified mosquitoes, after a court judge gave the green light this week.
The MRCU’s newest high-tech weapon in the fight against Zika and other diseases saw its first large-scale roll out Friday morning (29 July), taking to the streets in a mobile deployment van.
“There’s designated road and release points for every day, and then we release them about every 50 to 150 feet,” said Oxitec operations manager Renaud LaCroix.
The so-called ‘friendly’ aedis aegypti project is taking to the streets, dispersing thousands of genetically modified males from this specially outfitted van.
“They just go into the fan and they blow away as we drive and they are distributed around the area and they fly away to find females to mate with those females,” said Mr. LaCroix.
“Every time that we get [to a release location] it beeps and then it lets us know a couple of feet before we are there, then it beeps again to let us know when to actually release them,” explained Oxitec field assistant Heidi Groves.
With three releases scheduled per week, the Oxitec mobile release van will no doubt become a familiar sight in the 300-acre treatment area over the next nine months. The thick cloud of mosquitos could clearly be seen emerging from the van as it drove by.
“It does look impressive when you release them because it’s kind of a thousand of them, so it does look kind of cloudy but they disperse quite quickly,” said Mr. LaCroix.
Mr. LaCroix told Cayman 27 when the genetically modified males mate with wild females, a fluorescent marker gene is visible in the resulting eggs as viewed through a specialised microscope.
Starting next week, he will be looking for the telltale signs that the males are getting the job done.
“There’s probably not going to be many this week, but over the next month we should see numbers building up and hopefully see quite a number of those glowing ones soon,” said Mr. LaCroix.