FDA approves genetically modified mosquitoes to combat Zika virus in Florida

Oxitec has the FDA's approval to release of thousands of its GMO mosquitoes in the Florida Keys to combat the Zika virus. (Credit: Oxitec Ltd/Twitter)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the release of genetically engineered mosquitoes in Florida, assuring anxious locals that the experimental trial would have “no significant” environmental impact.

The genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, created by the British firm Oxitec, are part of an effort to combat the spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus. The mosquitoes are altered so their offspring die before they are able to reproduce, reducing the population of the Aedes mosquito that transmits Zika as well as dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya.

Florida officials recently said the Aedes mosquito had transmitted 15 Zika infections in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami – the first cases to be caused by mosquitoes on the U.S. mainland. The infections have amplified existing concern over a more widespread epidemic of Zika-related birth defects that have been plaguing countries throughout Latin America.

In addition to the FDA’s approval, the Florida district’s board has pledged to seek residents’ approval before moving forward with the trial. But some Florida residents have signed a petition expressing concern about the release of Oxitec’s mosquitoes, warning they could have unknown and unintended effects on the ecosystem.

“The company wants to use the Florida Keys as a testing ground for these mutant bugs. This release has not one single peer review,” read one petition, while another suggested that Oxitec’s mosquitoes may have triggered the Zika epidemic to begin with.

Despite fierce public opposition, it seems the release of the mosquitoes – which have also been released on a trial basis in Panama, Brazil and the Cayman Islands – will happen regardless of the vote, which will take place this November, according to the Guardian.

Oxitec has consistently assured the public that the experimental trial is not a rash response to the Zika epidemic.

“We’ve been developing this approach for many years, and from these results we are convinced that our solution is both highly effective and has sound environmental credentials,” said Oxitec CEO Hadyn Parry.

“We’re delighted with the announcement today [on Aug. 5]that the FDA, after their extensive review of our dossier and thousands of public comments for a trial in the Florida Keys, have published their final view that this will not have a significant impact on the environment.”

Parry also called on authorities to grant Oxitec emergency authorization to release the insects in Miami as a control measure.

In any case, Oxitec’s mosquitoes are still a long way away from being used on a wide scale, according to Beth Ranson from the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, which has been in discussion with Oxitec years before Zika even reached the western Hemisphere.

“It’s a small scale trial in just one neighborhood, so it wouldn’t really be available for commercial use,” Ranson said in an interview with Humanosphere. The firm would first need to have the trial proved for effectiveness, move into a larger scale trial to prove effectiveness, and so on, she explained.

Ranson added that it would also take months to determine whether this initial trial of genetically modified mosquitoes is even effective.

Zika is believed to cause birth defects including microcephaly, in which children are born with abnormally small heads and severe, lifelong developmental problems. The virus also disproportionately affects those living in poorer regions where standing water serves as a breeding ground for the insects, and women lack the means to obtain contraceptives.

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About Author

Lisa Nikolau

Lisa Nikolau is a Seattle-based reporter for Humanosphere, covering gender equality, indigenous rights and poverty in Latin America and worldwide. Find her on Twitter at @lisanikolau or email lisa.nikolau@humanosphere.org.

  • JohnG123

    The Zika virus has been around for more than 70 years, and it was originally harvested, isolated and turned into a research product by none other than the Rockefeller Foundation, the same globalist cabal of medical criminals who sought to destroy alternative medicine and grant western chemical medicine a monopoly over society.

    • JohnG123

      Classification Flaviviridae, Flavivirus Agent Zika virus Strain MR 766 (Original) Biosafety Level 2

      Biosafety classification is based on U.S. Public Health Service Guidelines, it is the responsibility of the customer to ensure that their facilities comply with biosafety regulations for their own country. Product Format freeze-dried Storage Conditions -70°C or colder

      Comments The depositor reports that ATCC® VR-84™ can agglutinate goose and chicken RBC, and that this strain is non-pathogenic for hamster, guinea pig, or rabbit.

      Accidental infection has occurred in laboratory personnel
      The lyophilized culture is stable at 4°C, and should be stored at -70°C or colder once rehydrated Effect on Host Paralysis and death

      Recommended Host Suckling mouse Growth Conditions Recommendations for Infection: Inoculate intracerebrally into suckling mice. Resuspend 20% sMb with 7.5% BSA in PBS.
      Incubation: 5-7 days

      Effect on Host Paralysis and death

      Name of Depositor J. Casals, Rockefeller Foundation Source Blood from experimental forest sentinel rhesus monkey, Uganda, 1947 Year of Origin 1947 References Dick GW, Kitchen SF, and Haddow AJ. Zika Virus. I. Isolations and Serological Specificity. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg 46: 509-520, 1952. PubMed: 12995440

      Zhu Z, et al. Comparative genomic analysis of pre-epidemic and epidemic Zika virus strains for virological factors potentially associated with the rapidly expanding epidemic. Emerg Microbes Infect 5: e22, 2016.

      • stev01

        Hahahahahahaha….P’owned!

      • Charles Linquist

        So are you implying that the spread of ALL modern diseases (AIDS, Ebola, etc.) are the result of some conspiracy, or just this one?

        • JohnG123

          See the following: Emerging Viruses
          Dr. Leonard G. Horowitz’s national best-seller (that the New York Times refused to review) provides the first in-depth exploration into the origins of HIV and Ebola.

          Claims that “emerging viruses,” AIDS, Ebola, herpes viruses, Epstein Barr, and the new flu viruses naturally evolved and then jumped species infect humanity seem grossly unfounded in light of the compelling evidence assembled in this monumental text.

          Alternatively, the possibility that these bizarre germs were laboratory creations, accidentally or intentionally transmitted via tainted hepatitis and smallpox vaccines in the U.S. and Africa – as numerous authorities have alleged – is investigated herein.

    • morphd

      There’s a Feb 25, 2016 New Yorker article titled “The Dangerous Conspiracy Theories About the Zika Virus” that lists over a half dozen different conspiracy theories.

      Just curious – what motivated you to pick that one?

      • JohnG123

        Instead of the New York I suggest you contact ATCC:
        You can buy the Zika virus from,ATCC: ATCC is the premier global biological materials resource.

        The Zika virus has been around for more than 70 years, and it was originally harvested, isolated and turned into a research product by none other than the Rockefeller Foundation, the same globalist cabal of medical criminals who sought to destroy alternative medicine and grant western chemical medicine a monopoly over society.

        Name of Depositor
        J. Casals, Rockefeller Foundation

        Source
        Blood from experimental forest sentinel rhesus monkey, Uganda, 1947

        Year of Origin
        1947

        References
        Dick GW, Kitchen SF, and Haddow AJ. Zika Virus. I. Isolations and Serological Specificity. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg 46: 509-520, 1952. PubMed: 12995440
        Zhu Z, et al. Comparative genomic analysis of pre-epidemic and epidemic Zika virus strains for virological factors potentially associated with the rapidly expanding epidemic. Emerg Microbes Infect 5: e22, 2016.

        • Charles Linquist

          I read Horowitz’s article. But it still doesn’t make sense to me. The Zika virus is spread mainly by mosquitoes. Genetically modified mosquitoes have offspring that die before they reach adulthood. The Genetic modification does nothing to Zika, only the mosquitoes. The genes of the mosquitoes (changed or not) do not

          • Elliander Eldridge

            Charles, you are correct. The only way the virus can mutate to adapt is if it found another carrier, but since the males do not drink blood they can’t be a carrier.

  • Elliander Eldridge

    I don’t get what the people are so scared of. I mean, after one generation that would be less Mosquitoes and none of them will be genetically modified. Genetic engineering in and of itself is not bad, it’s the application that makes it good or bad.

    This certainly seems much better, environmentally speaking, than discussions about rendering the global mosquito population virtually extinct.