Mosquito Mayhem—Florida Keys introduce Genetically Modified mosquitoes to fight disease-carrying mosquito species

Image by Егор Камелев from Pixabay

Genetically modified mosquitoes are like something out of a movie, and what better place for them to be released than in Florida…

That’s right; the Florida Keys will soon be testing the effectiveness of genetically modified mosquitoes in small areas between mile markers 10 and 93 in an effort to control the aggressively invasive and disease-spreading female Andes aegypti mosquito population.

The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District has partnered with U.K.-based biotech company Oxitec to help control the invasive flying species.

In August of 2020, the plan to release over 750 million genetically modified mosquitoes throughout the Florida Keys region was approved by local authorities.

And before anyone asks, Oxitec’s male mosquitoes do not bite.

In a recent interview with Fox News, Oxitec Head of Regulatory Affairs Dr. Nathan Rose said, “So, mosquito-borne disease is a thing in the U.S., and it’s likely to get worse in the future as a result of climate change [and] as these mosquitoes kind of move farther and farther north from the Gulf Coast into more and more of the continental U.S. So, the diseases are a big problem because these particular diseases don’t have any effective vaccines or medications to treat them [and] the only way to control them is actually to control the mosquitoes that spread them…”

Oxitec’s mosquito launch has been tested before in other parts of the world against the same mosquito species plaguing the Keys and has yielded positive results.  

“Recent similar demonstration projects in the Brazilian city of Indaiatuba found that Oxitec’s mosquito suppressed disease-carrying Aedes aegypti by up to 95% in urban, Dengue-prone environments following just 13 weeks of treatment, as compared to untreated control sites in the same city,” said the company’s findings. 

While Florida certainly has no shortage of mosquito issues, an area such as the Florida Keys provides the perfect opportunity to thwart further spread of the disease-carrying Andes.

The plan will ultimately be to gain U.S. regulatory agency approval and spread the genetically modified variant across the country to fight the harmful mosquitoes more effectively. 

Courtesy: Oxitec Twitter

Rose highlighted the company’s rollout plan as follows—”So, what we do first: the first phase of the project is really just releasing mosquitoes from a few single locations. And, what we want to look at there is how far are they flying and how long are they living in the environment in the Keys?” 

“And then, once we have the information from that, then we’ll move on to small neighborhood releases where we will release the mosquitoes over a neighborhood of maybe say 15 acres or something like that. And then, what we’re looking at is the impact of those mosquitoes is actually making effectively report the wild mosquitoes throughout that neighborhood.”

So far, multiple Florida agencies have green-lighted the release, and traps are currently being set for a prompt release. 

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