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Genetically Modified Mosquitoes To Be Tested in Florida

Aedes Aegypti mosquito

As a consequence of the Zika virus threat, a British-based biotechnology company is to begin tests on a genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquito, designed to try to stop transmission of the disease.

The idea is to use a mosquito that has been genetically modified male mosquito that, when it breeds with females, produces offspring that cannot breed. The idea is that this will gradually lead to a reduction in the mosquito population that can carry the virus.

The mosquitoes are modified using synthetic DNA. Initial trials suggest the mosquito population can be reduced by up to 80 percent. This needs proving on a bigger scale, however.

Although trials have been carried out on a small scale, a large trial will be conducted in the U.S. (in Florida at an isolated peninsula north of Key West). The need for a trial is important, because it is unknown if the full-blown plan will work unless a scaled-up pilot is run.

There is also some concern about the spread of a genetically modified organism and the impact on the surrounding ecosystem. For this reason, the proposal will be open for public comment and only executed following an inquiry into the comments received.

The company behind the project is called Oxitec. The trial is backed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Speaking about the trial, Dr. Luciana Borio, of the FDA, said:

“The data seems to be promising in terms of reducing the mosquito populations in those small field trials, but we need to go through our process, and we are greatly expediting the process.”

Oxitec have a track record in this area. In 2015 the company released genetically modified pink bollworms in field tests aimed at reducing the population of the cotton pest in Arizona. There are also plans to release genetically modified diamondback moths in New York state to deal with the moth population (which is an agricultural pest).

About the author

Tim Sandle

Dr. Tim Sandle is a chartered biologist and holds a first class honours degree in Applied Biology; a Masters degree in education; and has a doctorate from Keele University.

  • spencer

    Guarantee you that’s not the only thing they were designed.
    Bill gates wants to reduce the global population.
    Everyone in the world could have an acre of land and still all fit in the state of texas.
    Gates ones released gmo mosquitos at a ted talk.
    Guarantee you he has his dirty hands in this.

    • Dmitri Kara

      I wonder what the risks are here. I bet nobody will ever miss mosquitoes but do these gmo pose any “ummentioned” risks?

      • Spencer

        Im sure they will when they bite you. We shouldnt be hacking the world.