Genetically Modified Mosquito May Become Weapon Against Zika Virus

Genetically modified mosquitoes that would help fight the Zika virus are getting urgent attention from U.S. regulators as global health officials raise alarms about the pathogen’s spread.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is in the final stages of reviewing an application from Intrexon Corp.’s Oxitec unit to conduct a field trial in the Florida Keys, Oxitec Chief Executive Officer Hadyn Parry said in a phone interview. Parry wasn’t able to provide further details on the timing of an FDA decision.

Oxitec genetically modifies the males in a breed of mosquito known as Aedes aegypti — responsible for transmitting Zika, Dengue, Chikungunya and Yellow Fever — so that their offspring die young. The Zika virus has been spreading “explosively” in South and Central America, the World Health Organization said Thursday. Developing a vaccine could take years, drugmakers and health experts have cautioned.

Nextbigfuture agrees that genetic and chemical weapons (like DDT) should be used to eliminate the Aedes mosquito to improve world public health.

In the U.S., the risk is that travelers will return from affected countries with the virus in their blood, get bitten by mosquitoes in the U.S., and transmit the virus locally.

“You always get some people who say I don’t like genetic engineering because it’s a bad thing and we’re messing with nature,” Parry said, referencing concerns that a modified mosquito could spread and take over from other species. “With ours, it’s the complete opposite — it’s a self-limiting gene, they can’t reproduce.”

SOURCES – Bloomberg