Key West, the most southern tip of the continental U.S., is one step closer to experimenting with genetically modified mosquitoes to reduce the risk of dengue fever. And some residents and tourists don’t like it.
Dengue fever is a disease transmitted by the mosquito specie Aedes aegypti and is more common in tropical locations. Victims of the disease, also known as breakbone fever, display symptoms such as fever, headache, rashes and severe muscle and joint pain. It was thought to be eradicated in the Keys until 93 new cases emerged in 2009 and 2010 (source).
As a result of the influx of new dengue cases, mosquito control officials along with Oxitec, a British company, have filed a trial with the FDA to hopefully help with the problem. In the experiment, genetically modified male Aedes aegypti would be released in Key West to mate with females. The resulting eggs, however, would be unable to reach maturity due to a birth defect the male would pass on. They hope that after a few generations the mosquito specie would die off and eradicate the risk of dengue fever.
Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have not only caused illness in Key West, but they are also a huge cost. They are a strong mosquito specie that is harder to kill with pesticides. Instead, Key West inspectors go door-to-door getting rid of standing water where they are known to breed. This process is both time-consuming and expensive, costing the district $1 million a year. “’Unfortunately, control of Aedes aegypti is a never-ending job,’ said Larry Hriber, the mosquito control district’s research director.” Source.
Key West residents and tourists alike are against the use of genetically modified mosquitoes. They worry that there hasn’t been enough background research done and that the modified material may somehow be passed on to humans or the ecosystem. One local real estate agent, Mila de Mier, posted a petition on change.org to fight the test and has received more than 115,000 signatures. “We are dependent here on our tourists, and people from all over the country have been sending the message,” says de Mier (source).
It may be years before the FDA rules on the whether or not Key West will be able to deploy the mosquito control test. At Mosquito Squad, we use effective mosquito control solutions to protect our clients against the annoyance of mosquitoes and the dangerous diseases they may carry. If you have questions about how to protect your property, please contact your local Mosquito Squad office.