FDA approves testing for genetically altered mosquitoes

MIAMI (WSVN) - The Food and Drug Administration approved testing of genetically altered mosquitoes in the Keys, Friday, to help fight Zika.

The mosquitoes are already being used in Brazil, Panama and the Cayman Islands, and now some officials want to use them in Florida.

Senator Bill Nelson said releasing the bred mosquitoes would only pose a threat to Zika, not humans.

“The EPA looked at it and says is there an environmental damage? Is there any kind of human damage? And they said there is not,” Nelson said

Despite assurances from Nelson and scientists who breed the mosquitoes, the process is controversial. One petition against the process has gathered 168,000 signatures.

The Cayman Islands government has documented the entire process, and technicians working on it say it will work.

“We receive the eggs directly from the UK, and we hatch them here,” said Dr. Renaud Lacroix, who works for Oxitech, the company that developed the genetically altered mosquitos.

Then they separate the male and female mosquitoes, releasing only the males.

“We release males that cannot bite or transmit diseases,” said Lacroix. “They mate with females and those females lay eggs and those eggs hatch into larvae that don’t develop into adults.”

Since they don’t develop, the mosquito population supposedly goes down.

“What we want to do is to reduce the mosquito population and thereby reduce the risk of local transmission of the disease,” said Dr. William Patrie, Director of Cayman Islands Mosquito Control.

Friday’s announcement comes as more cases of Zika were discovered, Friday; there are now 16 confirmed cases of locally transmitted Zika in South Florida.

Senator Nelson said the genetically altered mosquitoes could stop Zika from spreading.

“That is a way that, if approved and if it worked, you can wipe out the aegypti population,” Nelson said, “but it’s extremely controversial because of people worrying.”

Testing would start in Key Haven. However, it is not expected to begin soon. Commissioners have put it on the ballot to be voted on in November.

Copyright 2018 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.