It’s another win for the GMO mosquito.
After months of reviewing public comments to its draft environmental impact study, the Food and Drug Administration announced today that it is officially giving OX513A, a genetically modified male mosquito developed by British company, Oxitec, a clean bill of health. The decision gives the federal green light for the use of the mosquito in a field trial this fall in a small Florida neighborhood.
“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.”
OX513A is a male Aedes aegypti mosquito, the primary species that carries the Zika virus. He is genetically engineered to pass along a lethal gene to wild females that makes the females’ offspring die. The gene creates a protein that interferes with cell activity, killing the mosquito before it can reach adulthood.
The field trial in Key Haven, Florida, is designed to test how well OX513A controls the local population of Aedes aegypti. Key Haven is a small community of about 475 homes on Raccoon Key, about a mile east of the island of Key West.
Oxitec says it expects the same results it has had in field trials 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.”
Though the FDA decision paves the way for Oxitec to begin production of the genetically altered male mosquitoes in its facility in Marathon, Florida, Parry said his company plans to wait for the results of a local referendum scheduled for November.