FDA says GMO mosquito likely OK to fight Zika in Florida

Larvae of OX513A have a florescent red gene created from coral as well as a lethal gene created from E.coli and herpes simplex virus.

Story highlights

  • FDA says GMO mosquito release will have "no significant impact" on people or environment
  • Trial will test how well OX513A controls the local population of Aedes aegypti in Key Haven, Florida

(CNN)The U.S. came one step closer today to getting its first genetically modified mosquito to fight the Zika virus. The Food and Drug Administration has released a draft of its environmental impact study of OX513A, a male Aedes aegypti mosquito genetically modified to pass on a lethal gene to his offspring.

According to the FDA, the release of this GMO male in a Key West suburb as part of a field trial will have "no significant impact" on the health of the local environment or the people who live in it.
    "While we didn't expect anything different, we're pleased the FDA has now published their data," said Haydn Parry, CEO of Oxitec, the British company that developed OX513A. "Now we want to get everybody comfortable with the decision."
    The use of GMO mosquitoes to fight the Zika virus has gotten recent attention by both the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization as a potential means to combat the growing threat of Zika. Passed primarily by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti female, Zika is now linked to neurological issues ranging from microcephaly to central nervous system disorders in babies of mothers who contracted the disease while pregnant, as well as fetal deaths and miscarriages. There is also a strong connection between Guillain-Barre, a paralyzing disease, and infection from the virus.
    However, it's not Zika that started the process toward America's first GMO mosquito. That happened after outbreaks of dengue fever, also carried by the Aedes aegypti, in Key West in 2009 and 2010. After millions of dollars of effort failed to bring the Aedes under control, local mosquito control officials looked for other options such as OX513A.
    The proposed trial will test how well OX513A controls the local population of Aedes aegypti in Key Haven, Florida. Key Haven is a small community of about 475 homes located on Raccoon Key, about a mile east of the island of Key West.
    But the thought of a GMO mosquito triggered fear among some members of the local community.