Zika has been found in Florida, and it’s forced the government to take some unprecedented steps to protect public health. One of those steps is to allow a biotech company to unleash genetically modified mosquitoes to, essentially, hump the blood-sucking little monsters out of existence.
Oxitec has created a mosquito, specifically an Aedes aegypti mosquito, that passes on a fatal genetic defect to its offspring. The idea is that the male mosquitoes will breed and the offspring will die, reducing the number of mosquitoes and thus their ability to transmit disease. Just in case you were wondering, Aedes aegypti isn’t native to Florida and is considered an invasive species, so ecologically at least, this is little more than pest control. Of course, removing invasive species can be a tricky business, but let’s face it, nobody’s going to miss mosquitoes.
Still, there are some concerns that are fairly reasonable, not the least of which is what might happen if this doesn’t work, although it has had successful field trials of up to 90 percent elimination. Oxitec has sought permission to do this before, to limit outbreaks of dengue fever, and citizens have objected as well. But considering the risk of Zika, it may be worth giving the horny mosquitoes a try.