Mutant mosquitoes could soon be released in Florida after the the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on Friday that Oxitec can conduct field trials of the company’s genetically engineered mosquitoes in the Florida Keys.
The FDA concluded that a field trial conducted in Key Haven, Florida would will not have significant impacts on the environment.
Oxitec’s self-limiting mosquitoes have been genetically engineered so that their offspring die before reaching adulthood. Male Oxitec mosquitoes, which do not bite or spread disease, are released to mate with wild female Aedes aegypti so that their offspring die, reducing the population. Efficacy trials in Brazil, Panama, and the Cayman Islands have tested this approach, and in each of these trials the population of Aedes aegypti was reduced by more than 90%.
“We’ve been developing this approach for many years, and from these results we are convinced that our solution is both highly effective and has sound environmental credentials,” Oxitec’s Chief Executive Officer Hadyn Parry said. “We’re delighted with the announcement today that the FDA, after their extensive review of our dossier and thousands of public comments for a trial in the Florida Keys, have published their final view that this will not have a significant impact on the environment. We are now looking forward to working with the community in the Florida Keys moving forward.”
The purpose of the proposed trial is to determine the efficacy of Oxitec’s self-limiting mosquitoes for the control of the local population of Aedes aegypti in Key Haven, Monroe County, Florida.
However, the green light from the FDA does not mean that Oxitec’s GE mosquitos are approved for commercial use. Oxitec would still be responsible for ensuring all other local, state, and federal requirements are met before conducting the proposed field trial, and, together with its local partner, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, to determine whether and when to begin the proposed field trial in Key Haven, Florida.
Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are the species that are primarily responsible for the spread of the Zika virus. The species can also transmit dengue fever, Chikungunya virus, West Nile virus, and Yellow Fever.