Last year we posted a story about how genetically modified mosquitoes were being created in laboratory settings and were going to be released into Florida at some point in the near future. Well, the future is here.
Yesterday, the biotech firm Oxitec, with the approval of the Florida State government, released its genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys. This is the first time genetically modified mosquitoes have been released in the United States.
The mosquito has already been released in parts of South America and Panama to great effect. A. aegypti, the mosquito species that carries diseases such as Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever, has seen it’s populations dwindle by as much as 90% in those areas.
The new mutant mosquitoes are all male mosquitoes. When they mate with the female mosquito they pass on a bad gene. This gene causes all the female offspring to die before they can reach maturity.
A. aegypti only make up 4% of the mosquitoes in the Florida Keys but are responsible for a disproportionate amount of mosquito born illnesses in humans.
The trial technically started last month when the mosquito larva was actually put into the field. Six boxes of ready-to-hatch genetically modified mosquito eggs were placed in Cudjoe Key, Ramrod Key and Vaca Key. It is estimated that about 12,000 of the special mosquitoes have hatched and are now currently mingling with the local mosquito population. This trial run is being done before the full 20 million mosquito dose will be administered.
The boxes were placed on undisclosed private property so as not to attract attention and to avoid vandalization or interference in the experiment.