Florida will begin releasing thousands of genetically modified mosquitoes this week in an effort to control the spread of disease.
What We Know:
- In the coming weeks, the state will release almost 144,000 nonbiting male mosquitoes engineered by the British firm Oxitec. These genetically engineered mosquitos are meant to mate with biting females, with any resulting female offspring unable to survive.
- Andrea Leal, executive director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, told the press, “As we are seeing development of resistance to some of our current control methods, we are in need of new tools to combat this mosquito. The Aedes aegypti mosquito makes up about 4 percent of the mosquito population in the Keys but is responsible for virtually all mosquito-borne diseases transmitted to humans,” she added.
- The project, approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and an advisory board of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, is meant to control the population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. This particular species can spread harmful diseases like dengue fever, Zika virus, and yellow fever to humans, as well as heartworm to pets and animals.
- This is not the first time Florida officials have tried to kill the disease-transmitting mosquito species. A few years ago, a program released male mosquitoes carrying a bacteria called Wolbachia, which rendered the Aedes aegypti offspring nonviable. The program released one set of mosquitos in Key West in 2017 and Miami in 2018.
This time, the modified insects will be placed in six locations in the Florida Keys, with some 12,000 expected to emerge each week for the next 12 weeks.