Over 2 billion genetically modified mosquitos are about to be released in the US
Scientists have been playing god with mosquitos for a couple of years now. Back in 2021, British company Oxitech released 750 million lab-modified mosquitos in Florida. Now, the company is gearing up to release another 2 billion genetically modified mosquitos across more of Florida and in California as well.
The new species, codenames OX5034, is made up entirely of male mosquitos. The new species is derived from the Aeses aegypti family of mosquitos. Just like others the company has released, this new 2 billion should produce female larvae that die off before they reach adulthood.
With the success of last year’s Florida release, the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has approved Oxitech for additional releases in the Florida Keys. The EPA has also approved a new program with the Delta Mosquito and Vector Control District in California. Furthermore, Oxitech says that it is reaching out to other state regulators to get programs running in more states, too.
Female mosquitos are the only mosquitos that bite and are attracted to human blood. Because the new genetically modified mosquitos are all male, the genetic modifications shouldn’t pose any danger to people that encounter them.
Oxitech also says the modifications will carry on through other male larvae. This should help the mosquito population lessen over multiple generations.
Despite its size, the mosquito is the world’s deadliest animal. That’s because this insect can carry multiple deadly and disabling diseases. Oxitech’s derived its new species from one notorious for carrying Zika, yellow fever, and even dengue. Other species can spread Malaria, lymphatic filariasis, and West Nile Virus.
Because it can carry so many different diseases, the mosquito is responsible for over 1 million deaths each year. That’s why Oxitech is releasing so many genetically modified mosquitos, to help cull the population. If we can dramatically lower the population of female mosquitos, we can stop the spread of these deadly diseases in their tracks.
Of course, like any animal, not all mosquitos are dangerous. With over 3,000 species of mosquito out there, many of them are completely harmless. Of course, you can’t tell the difference when they’re buzzing around your back porch.
Combating insect-borne diseases has been a priority for scientists for years. Despite all the progress we’ve made, the mosquito has continued to be a nuisance. Even with all the practices we’ve put in place to help cut down on mosquito populations growing, half the world still lives in an area where one bit could lead to malaria.
With this new species of genetically modified mosquito, we could finally have a concrete way to cut down on the possibility of catching malaria and other deadly diseases.