Millions of genetically modified mosquitoes to be set loose in US

Harry Wilmerding, DCNF

Millions of genetically modified mosquitoes will be released in the United States as part of an initiative to replace the insects carrying deadly diseases, the company behind the plan announced Tuesday.

The program, led by biotechnology company Oxitec, will release roughly 2 million genetically altered mosquitoes in California and Florida to fend off other mosquitoes carrying deadly diseases like Zika, yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya, the company said in a press release. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved Oxitec’s plan on March 8.

“Given the growing health threat this mosquito poses across the U.S., we’re working to make this technology available and accessible,” Oxitec chief executive officer Grey Frandsen said in the press release.

Oxitec’s mosquitoes are genetically modified to control the invasive Aedes aegypti mosquito, which first appeared in California in 2013, according to the company press release. The species are known to carry and spread various deadly diseases.

“These pilot programs, wherein we can demonstrate the technology’s effectiveness in different climate settings, will play an important role in doing so,” Frandsen added. “We look forward to getting to work this year.”

Mosquitoes are responsible for over 1 million human deaths per year due to the insect’s ability to carry and spread life-threatening diseases.

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