The final OK has been given to a plan to release more than 750 million genetically engineered mosquitoes in the Florida Keys, CNN reports.
The firm that developed the mosquitoes, Oxitec, has been seeking to test the mosquitoes, which aim to decrease the number of wild Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that can carry diseases like chikungunya, dengue, yellow fever, and Zika in Florida for years. It has previously tested them in Brazil, where it says their introductions led to a 90 percent drop in the number of wild mosquitoes. The engineered mosquitoes are male and carry a gene that, when they mate with wild female mosquitoes, causes the resulting larvae to die before reaching adulthood.
CNN notes that the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District had reached out to Oxitec in 2012 to help control its Ae. aegypti population, but there was public outcry against trials. A 2016 non-binding public referendum in the county approved the trial, though the precinct where the trial was to occur voted against it. The firm further developed a new engineered mosquito, also male, that only kills female mosquitoes, CNN adds.