The biotech firm Oxitec has released its genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys, with the goal of suppressing wild, disease-carrying mosquito populations in the region. This is the first time genetically modified mosquitoes have been released in the U.S.
Approximately 144,000 mosquitoes engineered by Oxitec are to be expected to be set free over the next three months, the first of up to 750 million approved for release over the next two years by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Oxitec has bioengineered male Aedes aegypti that do not bite to control the invasive, disease-spreading Aedes aegypti.
The release boxes will slowly release their self-limiting, male mosquitoes to mate with the local female biting mosquitoes. However, the female offsprings from these encounters cannot survive, which will subsequently control the population of disease-carrying Aedes aegypti.
According to the study, researchers have bioengineered male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to mate with the wild female population (females are known to bite their prey and cause dengue/malaria). The genetically engineered males carry a gene that passes to their offspring and kills female progeny in early larval stages.
The male child won’t die but they’ll continue to possess the gene that will pass on to future generations. With the death of female mosquitoes, the Aedes aegypti population is expected to drop considerably.