A mosquito will be used to prevent the spread of a disease caused by another mosquito. We are indeed living in exciting times. The US has decided to fight Zika in Florida with mosquitoes.
Zika virus is carried by the female Aedes aegypti mosquito. Originating in Brazil last year, the virus has been linked to abnormally small head size at birth (microcephaly) and lasting developmental problems in infants. This dreadful mosquito preyed on thousands of lives, with 1,700 cases of microcephaly being reported in Brazil alone.
Now that this mosquito has taken a swift flight through Caribbean and Americas, it has landed in the US as 15 cases have been records in the Wnywood neighborhood of Miami within last few days. Believed to be carried by the local insects, state authorities are alarmed by a possible Zika outbreak in Florida and its neighboring states.
In wake of this threat, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a field trial for genetically engineered (GE) mosquitoes (OX513A) on Key Haven, an island in Florida. Manufactured by a British Biotech Company, Oxitec Ltd, these GE mosquitoes have been found to effectively contain the spread of the virus by limiting the offspring population. These mosquitoes are engineered to mate with female mosquitoes and limit the life of the offspring, which are destined to die before reaching maturity. In this way, the mosquito population will be cut down to secure levels.
These GE male mosquitoes will be released into Florida’s air at an average of 20-100 per person, depending on the locality’s population.
Previous trials have shown about 96% reduction in the dangerous population of Aedes aegypti mosquito and similar outcomes are expected out of the trial in Florida.
In the recent press release, the FDA has said that no harmful impact on the environment is expected by the release of these mosquitoes. However, in November a referendum will be carried out to decide the fate of the use of this technique in future.