When Will The Keys Begin Using Genetically Modified Mosquitoes To Fight Zika?

(Photos courtesy of Flickr's Natural Causes and UF/IFAS)

In collaboration with MosquitoMate, Inc., the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District will hold a field trial in mid-April in hopes to reduce the number of Aedes aegypti mosquitos, which have been related to the Zika virus.

During November elections, residents of Monroe County voted in favor of British company Oxitec running a trial with genetically-modified mosquitos, but the neighborhood of Key Haven rejected it.

“We’re currently working with the FDA to get that approval changed to Monroe County as a whole, submitting additional information to the FDA and answering questions that they have,” Oxitec spokesman Matthew Warren said. “We will then work with FKMCD to identify a location within the county for the trial.”

Warren said there is no timeline for when the trial will begin but said Oxitec is “working to move ahead as promptly as the regulatory process will allow.”

In the meantime, MosquitoMate, Inc., a company based in Kentucky, will be working with the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District to conduct a trial using the bacterium Wolbachia to reduce and/or eliminate Aedes aegypti mosquito.

It is that mosquito species that carries the Zika virus.

According to the Wolbachia Field Trail guide, male Aedes aegypti will be infected with the bacterium Wolbachia. When these infected males, which do not bite, mate with female Aedes aegypti, the female’s egg will not hatch. This effect is similar the the trial Oxitec had planned in the Keys. Genetically-modified male Aedes aegypti that mate with females will cause the offspring to die.

The trial beginning in mid-April will release modified male mosquitos twice a week for about 12 weeks.

This story is a part of Untold Florida, a WUFT News series built from your questions.

About Baylor Cherry

Baylor Cherry is a reporter for WUFT News and can be reached at 727-916-0142.

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