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Florida May Consider Use Of Scientifically Engineered Mosquitoes To Battle Zika

Javier Hasse

The state of Florida could soon be freeing genetically modified mosquitoes to combat the Zika virus, the British firm that engineers the insects, Oxitec, said earlier this week.

These Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have been altered so that their offspring die before they are able to reproduce, and are currently being reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; the decision is expected shortly. However, the state said it will also seek for the approval of its residents before letting the insects loose. Of course, the initiative has already found some opposition in environmentally-concerned groups.

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Oxitec added that it intends to conduct a trial in the Florida Keys, aimed at assessing how effective the strain is in helping shrink the population of Aedes mosquitoes, which can't only carry Zika, but also other deceases like dengue and yellow fever. Similar trials have already been conducted in Brazil, Panama, and the Cayman Islands, and resulted in a reduction of more than 90 percent in localized Aedes mosquito populations.

On Wednesday, the company’s head of field operations Andrew McKemey told reporters they have already built a lab in Florida; All Oxitec needs to start the trial is regulatory approval.

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