The Mosquito Research and Control Unit says it’s so-called “friendly” aedis aegypti project in West Bay is making a dent in the population. Eight million genetically modified males have been released to date in the 300-acre rollout area, and they say the evidence shows they are getting the job done.
“The project is going very very well,” said MRCU Director Dr. William Petrie.
Almost six months after the first batch of genetically modified aedes aegypti mosquitoes were released in West Bay, Dr. Petrie said the results are exceeding expectations.
“The male mosquitoes that are being released are indeed mating successfully with the females in the wild,” said Dr. Petrie.
The GMO males carry a fluorescent marker gene. Dr. Petrie says the marker gene is showing up in more than 90 percent of eggs in the treatment area.
“This is two months of data, so it is solid. It’s an average of 94% over the past two months, so it is encouraging,” said Dr. Petrie.
Even more encouraging, he said, is the effect the GMO males have made on the overall population.
“We’re able to show that the percentage of the population in the treatment area is 12% of the population in the non-treatment area,” said Dr. Petrie.
“Now that we are seeing very positive returns from this trial programme, in my mind, just serves to further validate it,” said Health Councillor Roy McTaggart.
He believes government is likely to look favorably upon any future recommendations from the MRCU regarding a nationwide roll-out, but said it’s too early to take a guess about the cost specifics.
“I think what you’d be looking at is a commitment, financially, over several years to truly achieve the suppression that would probably be needed,” said Mr. McTaggart.
While the Zika threat has somewhat fizzled in Cayman from its peak in late 2016, the consensus is that the aedis aegypti still poses a significant public health risk.
“What we are quite sure of, is that dengue is not going away,” said Dr. Petrie.
The MRCU and partner firm Oxitec are permitted to release up to 22 million GMO males.