Florida officials approve investigational use of genetically modified mosquitoes
The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District voted to approve the use of genetically modified mosquitoes in a trial that will examine whether releasing the mosquitoes in Monroe County will reduce the area’s Aedes aegypti population, according to a press release.
The genetically engineered mosquitoes, referred to as self-limiting Friendly mosquitoes (Oxitec), are male mosquitoes modified to produce offspring that do not survive past the late larval or early pupal stage. A small survey conducted in 2015 showed that most respondents in Monroe County did not support the insect control method; however, residents voted on Nov. 8 to approve its use in the area.
In March, the FDA reviewed an environmental assessment of the self-limiting OX513A mosquito and released a preliminary finding of no significant impact on human health, animal health or the environment. The efficacy of the vector control method was demonstrated in five open field trials in Brazil, Panama and the Cayman Islands. According to the release, there was at least a 90% reduction in the A. aegypti population at the study sites. The method continues to be used in Piracicaba, Brazil and the Cayman Islands, where most residents support its use.
The next step for the Monroe County trial will involve the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District and Oxitec selecting a site for the investigation.
“Oxitec commends the Board of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District in this important decision, and we remain very committed to assisting the Florida Keys in their vector control efforts,” Hadyn Parry, CEO of Oxitec, said in the release. “Our solution has repeatedly shown it has significant potential to play a meaningful role in controlling invasive populations of [A. aegypti]. We look forward to working with the Board given the urgent need for better approaches against this harmful vector.”
Disclosure: Parry is an employee of Oxitec.