Could genetically engineered mosquitoes combat the Zika virus? - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Could genetically engineered mosquitoes combat the Zika virus?

Scientists are trying to fight the Zika virus with genetically modified mosquitoes. (Source: WOIO) Scientists are trying to fight the Zika virus with genetically modified mosquitoes. (Source: WOIO)
CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) -

A company called Oxitec believes genetically engineered mosquitoes could fight the Zika virus.

It's waiting on approval to release millions of the mosquitoes in Florida. Its goal is to reduce the virus-carrying population by cutting down on their offspring, but the genetically modified mosquito hasn't gotten off the ground here in the United States quite yet.

"They will actually mate with wild females and the offspring will die young, so they won't live long enough to transmit the virus. That technology has been approved for use in Brazil, where Zika is a large problem now," said Dawn Wesson, an associate professor of tropical medicine at Tulane University.

Meanwhile in Puerto Rico, where more than 5,000 people -- including more than 670 pregnant woman -- have been infected by the virus. A congressman is calling for the genetically modified mosquitoes to be deployed under an emergency authorization.

“In theory, that should work very well, the modeling suggests it should work very well. In reality, it may not be as clean cut as that, when Mother Nature comes into the picture, often things act differently than we expect them to,” Wesson said.

Oxitec, the company that alters these mosquitoes, wants to conduct trials in the Florida Keys. Some residents are against the plans, but the FDA says testing genetically modified mosquitoes here in the United States is safe. Oxitec says trials in Brazil have shown the technique can wipe out up to 96 percent of the dangerous Aedes Aegypti mosquito. The company says it’s been proven that the genetically modified mosquito bite is no different than a wild mosquito bite.

Key West residents will vote on the test trials for the mosquitoes in the fall.

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