Pest insects cause enormous harm and economic damage, transmitting many human, animal and plant diseases. Currently insecticide resistance is spreading at the same time as chemicals are being banned and current methods of controlling insects often fail.
pupae. Credit: Oxitec
This exhibit is about the pioneering use of genetically modified
(GM) insects to control diseases. Under the "sterile insect
technique", sterile male insects are released into the environment.
Native females that mate with those males have fewer offspring or
none at all. If enough sterile males are released for long enough,
this can significantly reduce or even eliminate the pest
How it works
Dengue fever is a rapidly spreading viral disease transmitted by
mosquitoes. There are 50-100 million infections each year and the
disease is established in over 100 countries. More than 40% of the
world's population live in areas at risk. There are no drugs to
prevent or cure dengue and a safe, effective vaccine is years away.
Bed nets are of little use against the vector mosquito, which bites
By using advances in genetic engineering scientists can now
extend the sterile insect approach to a wider range of insects,
including the mosquito that spreads dengue fever. This exhibit is
about the GM methods for mosquito control and is an opportunity to
learn more about their biology and talk to the scientists who
Visitors will be able to take part in an ecological activity to
estimate how many mosquitoes are in a population and play a
computer simulation game to try and control a mosquito-borne
disease with the lowest cost and highest benefit.
For further information you can download these pdfs about mosquitoes and mosquito-borne disease maps.
Play an online game about
reducing the number of mosquitoes in order to solve a disease
problem. The competition associated with this game is now closed
but you can still play the game.
Lead image: Fluorescent
genetically-engineered mosquito larvae. Credit: Oxitec