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Attacking Zika At The Source

James Gathany


A genetically engineered mosquito could stop the Zika virus from spreading. 

Pest control experts want to say goodbye to insecticides. Oxitec, an insect control company, has been testing a genetically engineered mosquito in affected countries. The mosquito mates with infected mosquitos to produce offspring that die before adulthood, reducing the population. The FDA reports the method is environmentally safe. Oxitec CEO Haydn Parry says the ruling will make next steps easier.

“Until now, I think it’s been quite difficult, because we haven’t had that finding," Parry says. "So, in other words, it’s been us explaining what we believe about our technology, whereas now it’s been through this incredibly intense, independent evaluation. So I think that’s a major step forward.”

Oxitec plans to conduct a trial in Key Haven, Florida. CEO Haydn Parry says community support will be taken into account.

“And I think that’s a very important part of this, because you need to take – this is a public health program, and like all public health programs, you really want to have the community with you,” Parry says.

The method has proven successful in Brazil, Panama and the Cayman Islands. The FDA reports it’s environmentally safe and will decide on the Florida trial after a public comment period. The Florida Department of Health reported one new Zika case today in Miami-Dade County. That makes a total of 60 in the state.

Ashley Tressel is a senior Communication and English student at Florida State University. Before WFSU, she interned at the Executive Office of the Governor and The Borgen Project, a national nonprofit for global poverty. She also wrote freelance for Carbonated.tv, a multimedia news site and served as managing editor for the FSU International Programs magazine, Nomadic Noles, in Valencia, Spain. After graduation, Ashley plans to embark on her journalism career somewhere in Colorado.