January 6, 2011
KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – Malaysia has delayed a landmark field trial to release genetically modified mosquitoes designed to combat dengue fever, an official said Tuesday, following protests from environmentalists.
In the first experiment of its kind in Asia, 4,000-6,000 male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes were originally scheduled to be released by last month in a bid to fight dengue, which killed at least 134 people last year in Malaysia alone.
The insects have been engineered so that their offspring quickly die, curbing the growth of the population in a technique researchers hope could eventually eradicate the dengue mosquito altogether. Females of the Aedes species are responsible for spreading dengue.
The trial however prompted widespread concern among environmental groups, which asked the government to call off the tests, saying the GM mosquito could fail to prevent dengue and have unintended consequences.