The GMO mosquito has it big this year as the FDA has approved the mosquito developed by Oxitec in order to combat Zika. OX513A, a genetically modified male Aedes aegypti mosquito has been given the federal green signal for use in field trials in a small Florida neighbourhood.
This approval by FDA comes after considering thousands of public comments and after a rigorous Environmental impact (EA) and a preliminary “Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI)” trial that concluded that the proposed field trial will not have significant impacts on the environment.
“We’re really pleased to announce the FDA finished their review and has found no significant impact of the release of our mosquito on human health or the environment,” Oxitec CEO Hadyn Parry said. “This is especially timely, given the recent finding of Zika transmission by local mosquitoes in a Miami neighborhood.”
The female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are the primary species that carry the Zika virus. OX513A helps control the mosquito population by releasing genetically engineered male mosquitoes that pass on a lethal gene to wild female mosquitoes while mating that in turn kills the offspring. This lethal gene in the offspring produces a protein that interferes with cell activity, thereby killing the mosquito before it can reach adulthood.
The field trial that will be conducted in Key Haven is designed to test how well OX513A controls the local population of Aedes aegypti. Oxitec expects the results of the trial to be similar to the open field trials conducted in Brazil, Panama and the Cayman Islands.
“Our studies show we can reduce the Aedes aegypti population by 90% over six months and keep it there by releasing small numbers of males after that,” Parry said. “And that is very cost-effective compared to pesticides.”
However, the commercial availability of the OX513A in the United States is subject to successful field trials and after ensuring that the other local, state, and federal requirements are met.
Although the FDA has given approval for field trials, the decision on when to start lies with the local mosquito control board. The decision will be based on but not bound by an election to get people’s views on the releasing GMO mosquitoes into their neighbourhood.
Two elections will be conducted in November for Key West residents wherein there would be a regionwide and countrywide vote. The regionwide vote will be to assess if the residents want to allow the mosquito to be released into their neighbourhood. The countrywide vote will be used to determine the other regions that are interested in the trials.
Speaking to CNN, Mila de Mier, an opponent of the GE mosquito who lives near Key Haven said, “We forced our board to go into an election. Because so far, consent has not been asked or given by the local population.”
However, Oxitec CEO Hadyn Parry cited a national Purdue University study that showed that in a survey of 964 US residents, atleast 78% of respondents supported the introduction of genetically modified mosquitoes into the United States to curb the spread of Zika.