The British firm Oxitec is releasing genetically modified mosquitos in the Florida Keys in hopes of controlling the Aedes aegypti population, the Miami Herald reports. Ae. aegypti, it notes, can spread diseases like Zika, dengue fever, and chikungunya.
The project has been a long-running source of controversy in the region. A trial of the mosquitos was put on hold in 2016 following local opposition, though voters in Monroe County, Fl., which includes the Florida Keys, later that year voted in favor of the test in a non-binding referendum. Oxitec then garnered all the federal, state, and local approvals it needed for the trial last year.
According to NBC News, Oxitec is to release nearly 144,000 mosquitos, all of which are male and do not bite. These male mosquitos will then mate with wild female ones — which do bite — and their resulting female offspring won't survive, leading to a smaller Ae. aegypti population size.
"As we are seeing development of resistance to some of our current control methods, we are in need of new tools to combat this mosquito," says Andrea Leal, executive director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, in a press release.