FDA approves using genetically-modified mosquitos to fight Zika

The modified insects have a gene that kills their offspring.

Reuters/Paulo Whitake

The Zika virus and related illness outbreak has been top-of-mind as of late -- in the US, that's particularly true in parts of Florida where the virus has spread. It looks like there may be a rather unusual way of fighting further spread of the virus, however. Today, the FDA just finished an environmental assessment of a technique cooked up by biotech firm Oxitec. The FDA has given approval for Oxitec conduct a field trial in which it releases genetically modified mosquitos that should "suppress" the population of infected mosquitos.

The plan Oxitec cooked up involves releasing genetically modified Aedes aegypti male mosquitos that would pass off a gene that's fatal to any offspring produced with wild female insects, thus trimming the population of infected mosquitos. Specifically, the FDA has stated that Oxitec's plan wouldn't cause any harm to the local environment, but the biotech firm still needs to work with a number of local, state and federal agencies before the field trial begins.

Oxitec also has to come to an agreement with the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District before enacting its field trial, something the FDA's approval will likely help with. Fusion notes that some have concerns about what removing a large portion of the Aedes aegypti mosquito population from the environment would have. The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District will speak with residents and then vote on the proposal -- if it passes it sounds like the field trial won't happen until late this year.