Genetically modified mosquitoes approved by FDA to fight Zika in Florida

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a genetically modified male Aedes aegypti mosquito to be deployed in a proposed field trial in Key Haven, Fla., to limit the spread of the Zika virus.

The approval comes after health officials recently identified the first cases of mosquito Zika transmission in Miami, which incited the CDC to issue a historic domestic travel warning. The FDA issued approval after months of reviewing public comments on the agency's study regarding the potential environmental impact of the genetically engineered mosquito.

The mosquito has been dubbed OX513A and was developed by the British company Oxitec. The modified insect features a "self-limiting gene" that is passed through breeding and causes death in the insect's offspring.

"We're really pleased to announce the FDA finished their review and has found no significant impact of the release of our mosquito on human health or the environment," Oxitec CEO Hadyn Parry said in a CNN report. "This is especially timely, given the recent finding of Zika transmission by local mosquitoes in a Miami neighborhood."

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Mr. Parry added that previous studies investigating the efficacy of Oxitec's modified mosquitoes showed the altered insects can reduce the population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes by 90 percent over a six-month period.

While the FDA's approval gives Oxitec the green light to develop mosquitoes in their Marathon, Fla., facility, the Key Haven clinical trial would not be able to begin until after a November referendum in which residents will vote on whether or not they want the mosquito released into their community.

If the community votes down the trial, Oxitec will likely take its mosquitoes to another Floridian location.

"We have the FDA stamp of approval," said Mr. Parry. "And we have had a lot of inquiries from various state and local officials who are trying to get up to speed on our technology and how it might help them in their efforts."

More articles on the Zika virus: 
15 US babies born with Zika-related birth defects; case count tops 1,800  
Aerial spraying begins in Miami as locally transmitted Zika cases reach 15  
At least 33 US troops have Zika  

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