Florida Keys Move Ahead With Trial of Self-Limiting, Gene-Modified Mosquitoes

Trial targets the primary vector for Zika, dengue, and chikungunya viruses

The Board of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District has voted to approve the investigational agreement for use of self-limiting Friendly mosquitoes (Oxitec, Ltd.) in an effectiveness trial to fight Aedes aegypti, the primary vector for such dangerous viruses as Zika, dengue, and chikungunya. This decision follows a November 8 approval vote by residents in Monroe County, clearly voicing their support for new solutions in combatting this invasive, disease-carrying mosquito.

Oxitec uses advanced genetics to insert a self-limiting gene into its mosquitoes. The gene is passed on to the insect’s offspring, so when male engineered mosquitoes are released into the wild and mate with wild females, their offspring inherit the self-limiting trait. The resulting offspring will die before reaching adulthood, and the local mosquito population will decline, according to the company.

The FDA previously published a final finding of no significant impact on human health, animal health, or the environment based on an environmental assessment of Oxitec’s self-limiting OX513A mosquito.

The FDA review team consisted of experts from the Center for Veterinary Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The FDA led an extensive review of evidence from trials of Oxitec’s technology performed in urban environments since 2009, and data from numerous safety and efficacy studies, site inspections, and independent experts.

In conjunction with independent collaborators, Oxitec has conducted five open field trials of its self-limiting mosquitoes in Brazil, Panama, and the Cayman Islands. Each trial led to a greater than 90% reduction of the wild A. aegypti population, a level of suppression far in excess of conventional approaches.

This approach is being deployed in Piracicaba, Brazil, and the Cayman Islands. Public support for these projects has been strong in these areas. Surveys conducted in mid-2016 show that 69% of the residents of Grand Cayman and 88% of Piracicaba’s citizens support the use of the genetically engineered mosquitoes.

The Keys mosquito control district and Oxitec are now working together to select a site for the investigational trial in Monroe County.

Source: Oxitec; November 21, 2016.