Back in June, I reported for PJ Media that British biotech firm Oxitec had secured the approval of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to release 2.4 million genetically modified “designer” mosquitoes on the unsuspecting residents of Florida and California in a mass experiment.
The populations of Florida and California, of course, did not grant permission to participate in this Public Health™ experiment because no one asked them for their consent. They just did it and that was that. Obviously, this is how sacred Democracy™ works.
“My body, my choice,” am I right? We can expect liberals to be up in arms over this transgression, no doubt. I would hate to believe their most cherished mantra is dependent on partisan politics.
What will the end result of releasing millions of genetically modified mosquitoes into the wild be? No one knows, actually, but we’ll all find out together.
Via NBC News:
The experimental public health effort, which still requires final approval from state regulators, follows the 2021 release of 144,000 genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys by British biotech firm Oxitec.
Oxitec said its genetically modified male, and thus non-biting, mosquitoes “find and mate with invasive female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, mediating a reduction of the target population as the female offspring of these encounters cannot survive,” thus reducing the overall population…
Oxitec’s mosquito release — which the EPA calls an “experimental pesticide product” — can take place in a 34,760-acre area across the two states between now and April 30, 2024, when the experiment ends.
At the same time, with the purported goal of eliminating malaria, The Science™ has shown proof of concept for using mosquitoes to circulate genetically modified versions of the parasite that causes malaria, Plasmodium falciparum, so as to vaccinate the public against malaria.
Researchers genetically modified Plasmodium falciparum by removing a set of genes from the parasite that causes the illness, thereby creating a relatively “minor” malaria infection, and then siccing infected mosquitoes (also genetically modified) on human test subjects to gauge the immune response.
Via Science Translation Medicine (emphasis added):
Genetically engineered live Plasmodium falciparum sporozoites constitute a potential platform for creating consistently attenuated, genetically defined, whole-parasite vaccines against malaria through targeted gene deletions. Such genetically attenuated parasites (GAPs) do not require attenuation by irradiation or concomitant drug treatment. We previously developed a P. falciparum (Pf) GAP with deletions in P52, P36, and SAP1 genes (PfGAP3KO) and demonstrated its safety and immunogenicity in humans. Here, we further assessed safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity of the PfGAP3KO vaccine and tested its efficacy against controlled human malaria infection (CHMI) in malaria-naïve subjects. The vaccine was delivered by three (n = 6) or five (n = 8) immunizations with ~200 PfGAP3KO-infected mosquito bites per immunization. PfGAP3KO was safe and well tolerated with no breakthrough P. falciparum blood stage infections. Vaccine-related adverse events were predominately localized urticaria related to the numerous mosquito bites administered per vaccination. CHMI via bites with mosquitoes carrying fully infectious Pf NF54 parasites was carried out 1 month after the last immunization. Half of the study participants who received either three or five PfGAP3KO immunizations remained P. falciparum blood stage negative, as shown by a lack of detection of Plasmodium 18S rRNA in the blood for 28 days after CHMI. Six protected study participants received a second CHMI 6 months later, and one remained completely protected. Thus, the PfGAP3KO vaccine was safe and immunogenic and was capable of inducing protection against sporozoite infection. These results warrant further evaluation of PfGAP3KO vaccine efficacy in dose-range finding trials with an injectable formulation.
“We use the mosquitoes like they’re 1,000 small flying syringes,” summarized the paper’s author, Sean Murphy, to NPR in September 2022. The outlet clarifies, “Researchers say the genetically modified mosquitoes will not be used at large to vaccinate millions of people. The reason why mosquitoes were used instead of syringes, they claim, was to save costs.”
“To be clear, Murphy’s not planning to use mosquitoes to vaccinate millions of people. Mosquitoes have been used to deliver malaria vaccines for clinical trials in the past, but it’s not common,” NPR assures readers who might be concerned about using mosquitoes as vectors for vaccines. “He and his colleagues went this route because it is costly and time consuming to develop a formulation of a parasite that can be delivered with a needle.”
And given the honesty and forthrightness demonstrated by the purveyors of The Science™ over the course of the past three years, who are we to doubt them?
Will this technology actually work as promised to confer immunity to malaria without any serious long-term consequences for the environment or side effects in humans? It’s possible — but it’s equally possible if not more probable that the claimed benefits of such activity are far outstripped by the unforeseen consequences of messing with pathogens’ genetics, which have evolved in harmony with the environment in a labyrinthine, nearly incomprehensible-to-the-human-mind balancing act over millions of years.
Anyone — especially a scientist, who should have learned a modicum of humility in his studies — who flippantly dismisses the potential dangers is hopelessly ignorant about how the natural world actually works, not how high priests of The Science™ think they can make it work as they play God.
Or maybe I’m being a conspiracy theorist here. Obviously, this is going to end well for all parties involved. Absolutely nothing could go wrong with applying experimental gene technology to malaria-causing pathogens and then, potentially, sending them out in the ether to spread their blessings far and wide via mosquitoes, whether the individuals alleged to benefit from them want to receive their gifts or not. That’s how ethics work in our Brave New World.