The Zika virus is a topic of concern, especially with the Olympics kicking off in Rio De Janiero, Brazil—but I’m talking about the warning that was issued very close to home by the Centers for Disease Control. Fox News reported that for the first time since 1946, the CDC issued a warning to traveling Americans about venturing into a Miami neighborhood, where mosquitos carrying the virus have been detected. While Congress haggles over funding to fights the virus, the Federal Drug Administration has given the go-ahead to release genetically modified mosquitos to fight Zika’s spread in the state (via Fusion):
On Friday, the FDA released a final environmental assessment of the trial, finding that it “will not have significant impacts on the environment.” The project, led by Oxitec, a biotech company that focuses on insect control, calls for the release of thousands of genetically engineered male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. The lab insects are bred so that over time they could kill off much of the local mosquito population by passing on a gene fatal to any offspring they have with wild females.
This is not the last hurdle Oxitec faces in turning its dream of disease-obliterating mosquitoes into reality. The company will have to win the approval of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, which plans to vote on the proposal after issuing a survey testing local sentiment of Keys residents this fall. While past surveys have shown the project to have a majority of support, it has also had vocal naysayers. Some fear the environmental impacts that removing the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, a non-native species, might have. Others have more imaginative objections, such as conspiracy theories about the project.
Oxitec’s mosquitoes are engineered to include two copies of the baby-mosquito killing genes, overriding natural selection to make it almost certain that their offspring receive the killer gene from dad.
That’s pretty cool.