First genetically modified mosquitoes released in US

N. Lanese,  LiveScience,  2021.

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. Oxitec previously released its modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in Brazil, the Cayman Islands, Panama and Malaysia, and the company reported that local A. aegypti populations fell by at least 90% in those locations, Live Science previously reported. A. aegypti can carry diseases such as Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever, and releasing modified mosquitoes offers a way to control the population without using pesticides. Oxitec’s modified mosquitoes, all male, have been engineered to carry a lethal gene; when the modified pests mate with wild female mosquitoes, the lethal gene gets passed on to their offspring. Though the gene does not affect the males’ survival, it prevents female offspring from building an essential protein and thus causes them to die before reaching maturity. Only female mosquitoes bite people (male mosquitoes exclusively drink nectar), so the modified mosquitoes and their surviving male offspring can’t pass diseases to humans.

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