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One Health Resource Center

September 23, 2017
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UK site will produce billions of genetically modified mosquitoes

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Credit: Army Medicine, Flickr
Genetically modified mosquito
Source: Army Medicine, Flickr

A British company plans to build a centralized facility with the capacity to produce one billion genetically modified mosquito eggs every week.

Oxitec said the plant in Oxfordshire, England, will support what it characterized as an increasing global demand for its “Friendly” mosquitoes. The nonbiting male mosquitoes have been genetically modified to pass on a self-limiting gene to their offspring so that they do not survive to maturity, reducing wild populations of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which spread diseases like chikungunya, dengue, yellow fever and Zika.

The males also die, and the offspring are implanted with a fluorescent marker so they can be easily tracked and monitored, according to Oxitec.

The mosquito-control method has raised ethical issues in the past and faced public opposition in a Florida Keys community, where a field trial had been planned. The FDA has said that a field trial of the mosquitoes would have no significant effect on human or animal populations or the environment.

Officials in the Florida Keys eventually voted to move forward with a field trial of the mosquitoes, just not in the community that initially rejected it. Oxitec, which has run successful field trials in Brazil, the Cayman Islands and Panama, is waiting for approval for a Florida trial site from the FDA.

Insect control has been a priority in many places dealing with a rise in mosquito-borne diseases, including Zika, a once benign disease that has had tragic health consequences for babies in the Americas.

Oxitec said the Oxfordshire facility will lead to a 20-fold increase in the number of eggs that are currently being produced.