Zapping Zika with Genetics

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It was announced Friday that the Food and Drug Administration has given its approval for a trial use of genetically engineered mosquitoes to be released in Florida in an effort to combat the dreaded Zika virus.

This comes after Florida confirmed 15 infections of the virus in the Miami area on Thursday.

The genetic modifications ensure that any mosquito that mates with one of the engineered mosquitoes will produce dead offspring, thus minimizing the continued spread of Zika. The FDA reviewed the project and found that the strategy would pose no significant danger to the environment.

The FDA seal of approval is not the complete go-ahead for the trial, however. It is up to the citizens in Monroe County in Florida will decide in a referendum whether or not to allow the trial to go ahead. Reportedly, the referendum is not a legal contract but the Florida Keys mosquito control board state that they will comply with voters’ wishes.

If given the green light, the trial will last between 6 and 22 months. Scientists will be looking to see if the females of the Zika carrying mosquito species will mate with the genetically altered ones. While Florida waits, the same company that produced these mosquitoes is already releasing trials in Panama, Brazil, and the Cayman Islands and is awaiting approval for a trial in Sri Lanka.

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