First Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Released in the United States

First Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Released in the United States

Biotech firm Oxitec launches controversial field test of its insects in Florida after years of opposition from residents and regulatory complications.

Nature, 2021

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Despite strong pushback from Florida residents and a decade of regulatory scrutiny, British biotech firm Oxitec was allowed to release millions of genetically engineered mosquitos into the Florida Keys. Some locals don’t trust the company’s motives and technology, while others worry about its effects on the region’s ecosystem. Researchers hope the experiment will kill off a species of mosquitos responsible for deadly diseases in humans.


Oxitec, a UK biotechnology company, is releasing genetically engineered “killer” mosquitoes into the Florida Keys.

Oxitec’s experiment attempts to suppress Aedes aegypti mosquito populations, a species that can infect people with viruses like Zika, yellow fever and dengue fever. While Aedes aegypti represents only 4% of mosquitoes in the Keys, it causes almost all mosquito-transmitted diseases in the island chain. Oxitec has completed similar tests in Panama, the Cayman Islands, Brazil and Malaysia. This trial represents the first release of genetically-altered mosquitos anywhere in the United States.


About the Author

Emily Waltz is a freelance science journalist, specializing in biotechnology and science business.

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