The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved release of more than 2 billion genetically modified mosquitoes in the states of California and Floridato combat diseases such as dengue fever and the Zika virus.
The pilot project is a product of the British biotechnology company Oxitec, which specializes in biological pest control. The project is a continuation of a successful pilot project carried out in the Keys in 2021.
Oxitec plans to release 2.4 billion Aedes aegypti mosquitoesgenetically modified to produce only viable male offspring. When males reproduce, they pass on the self-restraint gene to the next generation.. Thus, the Aedes aegypti population will be overstocked with males, leading to its decline.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito originated in Africa but has since spread to tropical and subtropical regions around the world.. It was first discovered in California in 2013 before proceeding to expand its range in the United States, bringing the species to more than 25 states.
Aedes aegypti is known to carry a number of deadly diseases, including dengue fever, yellow fever, Zika virus and chikungunya.. This species feeds on a range of birds and mammals, with a preference for humans.
However, like all mosquitoes, only females feed on blood, using it to mature eggs. Males are harmless and not spread disease, preferring instead to eat fruits.
“Given the growing health threat this mosquito poses in the United States, we are working to make this technology accessible and affordable,” said Gray Frandsen, CEO of Oxitec. “These are pilot programs in which we can demonstrate the effectiveness of the technology in various climatic conditions.will play an important role in this regard.”
Genetically modifying male mosquitoes so that they do not produce female offspring is an effective way to reduce mosquito populations. and is a more environmentally friendly solution than using pesticides. Pyrethroids, a group of pesticides commonly used to control mosquitoes, are toxic to insects such as bees and dragonflies, as well as to aquatic life.
Opponents question safety
Although the EPA has concluded that the project is harmless to humans and the environment, opponents express concerns about unforeseen consequencesespecially regarding the potential interaction of mosquitoes with the antibiotic tetracycline.
This antibiotic can be found in farm wastewater and is known to reverse genetic changes in mosquitoes, allowing female offspring to be produced.
Therefore, the EPA has ruled that mosquitoes cannot be released within 500 meters of sewage treatment plants, livestock farms, or fruit farms.. For the project to continue, state regulators in Florida and California must now grant permits to Oxitec.