Genetically modified mosquitoes may soon be released in California's Central Valley as part of a bid to prevent their spread, the Guardian reports.
It adds that the UK-based firm Oxitec has received the OK from the US Environmental Protection Agency to release up to 2.4 billion modified mosquitoes through 2024. The hope is to curb the spread of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can carry diseases like dengue, Zika, Chikungunya, and yellow fever, the Guardian says, noting that Ae. aegypti is a relative newcomer to California.
The company's mosquitoes are male and modified so that when they mate with wild females, the only offspring that are produced are also male, which do not bite.
The Guardian notes there has been some pushback from the public, particularly as the antibiotic tetracycline, which is often used in agriculture, can act as an antidote and enable female mosquitoes to be produced. The EPA, it adds, has stipulated that the mosquitoes cannot be released near certain citrus, livestock, or other farms or near wastewater treatment facilities.
Oxitec has an ongoing trial of its modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys, which has also been a source of controversy.