May 25, 2023

Genetically modified mosquitoes to battle disease-carrying bugs closer to approval

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mosquito_gmBy William Axford From KeysInfoNet

Genetically modified mosquitoes created to decrease the number of disease-carrying mosquitoes in the Lower Keys could be released by the spring, officials say.

Scientists from Oxitec, a British company that has released genetically modified mosquitoes in the Cayman Islands and Brazil, have built a rearing facility at the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District building in Marathon and are awaiting approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to import mosquito eggs from the United Kingdom.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has approved exporting the eggs and Oxitec scientists expect U.S.D.A. approval by December.

If import approval is given, the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC will review Oxitec’s growing facility and the process of creating genetically modified mosquitoes before trial runs begin.

“The FDA, [Environmental Protection Agency] and CDC are looking at our protocols and methodology,” said Derric Nimmo, product development manager with Oxitec. “We’re hoping early next year that we’ll get approval to start trials.”

According to Oxitec’s website, the company’s genetically modified male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes control populations by passing genes onto their offspring that cause them to die prematurely. Aedea aegypti mosquitoes can carry the chikungunya and dengue viruses. Both create painful, flu-like symptoms.

Key West had a dengue outbreak in 2009.

Key Haven, just outside of Stock Island, has been selected as the initial test site.

“Key Haven is an excellent site because it’s virtually an island on its own,” Nimmo said. “Where we’re releasing is not surrounded by other houses so you can get an immigration of other mosquitoes.”

Although the Aedes aegypti hasn’t caused an outbreak of dengue fever since 2009, Mosquito Control officials say waiting for a potential outbreak is not an option.

“We want to be proactive with dengue and prevent it before it happens,” said Beth Ranson, public information officer.

Monroe County health officials confirmed 93 cases in 2009. There have been no reported cases since that time.

Ranson and Nimmo said the mosquito-rearing process and trial runs will be transparent. After review from the CDC, FDA and EPA, an environmental assessment will be available to the public, providing a 30-day community review.

Oxitec last year reported a 96 percent suppression of dengue-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the village of Mandacaru, near the city of Juazeiro in Brazil. In 2011, Oxitec reported achieving similar results in Grand Cayman, an island comparable in climate to Key West.

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See related iNews story with links to others we have carried published July 28 2014 “GM mosquitoes to check dengue menace?” at:


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