On Friday [August 5, 2016] federal authorities gave the final OK to begin a process in which genetically modified mosquitoes are to be released in Florida as a part of the state’s ultimate plan to fight the Zika virus.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a field trial testing Intrexon Corp’s genetically engineered mosquitoes is designed to help keep mosquito populations down, and would not have any significant impact on the environment.
This FDA approval comes only hours before Florida’s Department of Health confirmed a new Zika infection within a 1-square-mile zone of Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, bringing up the state’s tally of Zika cases spread by mosquitoes to 16.
“The pathways that enable emergency use should be looked at because the crisis is here and now, and it would be an awful shame if we looked back in two or three years and say, ‘Why didn’t we do this?” said Intrexon’s Oxitec CEO Hadyn Perry.
Oxitec has been working for some time now to finally launch a trial, testing the effectiveness of its GMO mosquitos in fighting diseases that include Zika, dengue, chikungunya, and Yellow Fever.
Its methods involve inserting an engineered gene into the male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Once they mate with female mosquitoes in the wild, they produce offspring that won’t survive to adulthood, working towards a decrease in population of the disease-carrying insect.
The World Health Organization declared a global health emergency following Zika’s link to microcephaly in newborns, a condition in which a child is born with an abnormally small head size that could lead to developmental problems.