Oxitec and the Gorgas Institute in Panama announced the result of the outdoor pilot of Oxitec OX513A, an engineered strain of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. The outcome was a reduction of over 90 percent in the local population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits the dengue and chikungunya viruses. 

The study took place in a neighborhood of Nuevo Chorrillo, a residential suburb of the Arraiján District, west of Panama City. The 10 hectare urban area is home to approximately 900 residents and contains a school and several small businesses. Two similar neighborhoods nearby were monitored for comparison purposes.

Male Oxitec OX513A mosquitoes, termed ‘friendly mosquitoes’ by many residents, were released throughout the study area on a regular basis. Whenever these males, which cannot bite or transmit disease, mated with local female Aedes aegypti, their offspring died before adulthood. This reduced the population in successive generations of mosquitoes until, after only six months, the reduction was over 90 percent relative to the comparison sites.

Oxitec is a pioneer in using genetic engineering to control insects that spread disease and damage crops. Its solutions build upon the use of the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) and show extremely useful genetic modified or engineered insects.  

“Achieving over 90 percent suppression of the local Aedes aegypti population is particularly pleasing because the project took place going into the rainy season, when mosquito numbers rise significantly. Furthermore, these results are wholly consistent with those from studies by collaborators in the Cayman Islands and Brazil,” said Hadyn Parry, CEO of Oxitec. “The Oxitec solution is far and away the most sustainable way to control Aedes aegypti since it affects only the target species and does not persist in the environment. It provides an urgently needed new tool that can be used in conjunction with existing programs.”

Nestor Sosa, director of the Gorgas Institute, said, “Panama, like many countries in the region, has been experiencing a dengue epidemic and more recently we are seeing a new virus, chikungunya, coming to our country. Aedes aegypti is the main vector of both these debilitating diseases for which there is no medication or vaccine. Chemical-based approaches have not been able to control this mosquito sufficiently well to prevent the epidemics that Panama has experienced. The pest reductions achieved using the Oxitec solution go far beyond what is practical with conventional insecticides, and, therefore, gives real hope of providing people with vitally needed protection from dengue and chikungunya.”

The Gorgas Institute is a long established Panamanian public health institution with national and international recognition, generating new knowledge to guide health policies and interventions.