Researchers from biotechnology firm Oxitec have completed the first open-air study of genetically engineered mosquitoes in the Florida Keys. Their findings were promising as scientists found that all-female mosquitoes had inherited the lethal gene and they died before reaching adulthood. The company plans another release of mosquitoes in California later this year.
In March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved plans from Oxitec to release billions of genetically engineered mosquitoes in Florida and California between 2022 and 2024 to limit the transmission of harmful diseases such as dengue, Zika, and yellow fever.
Oxitec’s engineered males carry a gene that is lethal to female offspring. Researchers observed 22,000 larvae taken from the areas where the males were released. None of the female larvae that were the offspring of the modified males lived into adulthood. Male offspring carried the gene and passed it on to half of their progeny. As each generation passed, more females died, reducing the A. aegypti population.
Nathan Rose, Oxitec’s head of regulatory affairs said during a webinar earlier this month that the results were promising.
We had quite a number of key performance outcomes that we were hoping to hit and we were able to hit all of those in this trial. This is pretty much what we expected.This really confirms the self-limiting nature of the genes, they’re not going to persist long-term in the environment.
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