In August 2020, Florida authorities received EPA approval for a pilot project to release 750 million genetically engineered mosquitoes in Florida Keys between 2021 & 2022. The project aimed to minimize pesticide spraying by fundamentally controlling the spread of Aedes aegypti, a type of mosquito that transport deadly diseases such as Zika virus, chikungunya & dengue fever.
A genetically engineered mosquito called OX5034 is developed to kill the female before it goes through the larval stage. Female mosquitoes are responsible for biting people and transmitting diseases, while male mosquitoes do not transmit diseases because they only feed on plant nectar. Needless to say, many objected to the project on the grounds that they did not fully understand the risks yet.
The first results are promising
Now, Biotech has released the first results of the trial and it is very promising, according to an article published in Nature on Monday. Researchers studied the results of experiments by placing boxes of oxitec mosquito eggs on private properties in keys and surrounding them with traps.
With this approach, the researchers collected more than 22,000 mosquito eggs. Then they took them back to the lab and watched them hatch to see if the plan actually worked. The researchers said all females who inherited the lethal gene died before reaching adulthood, indicating that the main goal of the experiment was successful.
An approach that is well-received
So far, approaches to obtaining experimental results have been well received. “I like the way they do it,” said Thomas Scott, an entomologist at the University of California, Davis. “They do it systematically, thoughtfully. So it’s exciting, but there’s a lot of work ahead of them,” he says.
Biotech also has ambitious plans to release mosquitoes at a second research site in Visalia, California, where the company is developing a research facility. Will this second study face the same opposition as the first, or will these promising results make it easier for researchers to move forward with their work?