FDA predicts no significant environmental impact from GM mosquitoes

Preliminary statement could bring U.S. closer to disease control by genetic engineering

Aedes aegypti

A test of fighting Aedes aegypti mosquitoes (one shown) with genetically modified males would pose “no significant impact” on the environment, the FDA said in a draft report released March 11.

James Gathany/Public Health Image Library

The FDA has taken a step in the process of deciding whether to allow the first test release in the United States of genetically modified mosquitoes to fight diseases such as those caused by the Zika virus.

FDA reviewers on March 11 released a draft statement predicting that a short-term release of male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes engineered to fail as fathers would make “no significant impact” on the environment. The England-based company Oxitec developed the OX513A mosquitoes to shrink wild populations by siring offspring that won’t live to adulthood. Brazil has approved their use, and the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District is considering a short-term experiment at Key Haven.

Among the reasons for concluding that the test would not have significant impacts, FDA reviewers noted that almost all mosquitoes released would be males, which don’t bite. So the risk of some allergic reaction to a GM mosquito’s bite would be “negligible,” The reviewers state.

There will be a 30-day public comment period on the draft, and then the FDA will consider whether to permit the test.

This mosquito species, invasive in the Americas, can spread dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya as well as Zika virus.

Susan Milius is the life sciences writer, covering organismal biology and evolution, and has a special passion for plants, fungi and invertebrates. She studied biology and English literature.

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