FLORIDA, United States, Monday March 14, 2016 – The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says genetically engineered mosquitoes being used in the fight against the spread of the Zika virus are environmentally safe – a decision that could pave the way for a trial in the US.
British company Oxitec has modified male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes so that their offspring die before they can reach adulthood and reproduce. It has carried out trials in Brazil, Panama, and the Cayman Islands to battle the mosquito-borne dengue and says the Aedes aegypti population has been reduced by more than 90 per cent.
The FDA said its investigations have determined that a proposed field trial of the insects in the Florida Keys is unlikely to cause any harm to people, animals or the environment.
“While we didn’t expect anything different, we’re pleased the FDA has now published their data. Now we want to get everybody comfortable with the decision,” Oxitec’s chief executive officer Hadyn Parry said.
“If we do get permission from the FDA to go ahead, we are hoping that we will start running the programme sometime in 2016.”
The public now has until April 13 to file comments on the issue with the FDA – one of the steps that must be taken before the agency gives its final nod.
Parry said once the approval is given, it won’t be long before the mosquitoes can be released.
“We already have a mosquito-raising facility in Marathon, Florida, so we would send the eggs from the United Kingdom and begin growing them,” he said.