6 May 2021.
Oxitec Biotech firm has released its genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys with the goal of suppressing wild, disease-carrying mosquito populations in the region. This is the first time genetically modified mosquitoes have been released in the U.S.
What are these Genetically Modified Mosquitos?
- The Aedes aegypti mosquitos make up only 4% of total mosquito population in Florida.
- However, they are responsible for all diseases transmitted by mosquitos such as zika, chikungunya, dengue and yellow fever.
- Naturally, the male Aedes aegypti mosquitos do not bite.
- Only the females bite and spread diseases.
- The researchers have now bioengineered the male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.
- The bioengineered male Aedes aegypti carries a gene that passes to their offsprings and kills the female progeny alone in early larval stages.
- The male offspring will not die and will become the carriers of the gene and will pass on to the future generations.
- As more and more female offspring dies, the population should dwindle.
What is the plan?
- The researchers of Oxitech had placed the boxes containing the bioengineered mosquito eggs at six locations in April 2021.
- The first males are expected to hatch in May 2021.
- In the next twelve weeks, more than 12,000 males are to exit from these boxes every week.
- In the second phase, 20 million bioengineered mosquitos are to emerge over a period of sixteen weeks.
- The Genetically modified mosquitos carry a gene that makes them glow when exposed to a particular type of light. This will help in identifying the Genetically Modified mosquitos.
- The residents of Florida were fighting against this field test over a decade now. And therefore, Oxitech launched the test trials of the mosquitos in Panama, Brazil, Malaysia, and Cayman Islands.
- The Environment Protection Agency has recently approved to conduct the trials in Florida. Based on the success of the trials, it is to be extended to the entire US.