Florida tests bacteria-infected mosquitoes to kill off bugs

Faith Castro
April 19, 2017

The Wolbachia trial has not garnered public opposition like GMOs and numerous opponents of GMO mosquitoes support the bacterial method.

"Our results mean that Aedes albopictus may have a role in Zika virus transmission and should be of concern to public health", Smartt said in a news release from the Entomological Society of America. "They don't tend to carry a lot of human disease, viruses or transmit viruses like West Nile Virus".

"Detecting Zika RNA fragments without finding live Zika virus suggests that either the female parent was not itself infected with live Zika virus or it was not able to transfer live Zika virus to her eggs", said Smartt.

The infected mosquitoes were flown in cardboard tubes to Key West on Tuesday morning. The releases will take place in a 10-acre test site on Stock Island, and mosquito traps there will be compared with a similar-sized control area nearby (but separated by a buffer). They also urge people to apply mosquito repellent containing DEET and remove mosquito-breeding habitats by removing water from containers because that's where mosquitoes lay their eggs and the immature stages develop.

Mosquito Control District Executive Director Andrea Leal said is exploring new ways to suppress Aedes aegypti mosquito populations because conventional methods are costly and labor-intensive.

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The Keys trial is MosquitoMate's second US test with Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, after a similar trial in Clovis, California, last year. Regional Office in Europe published a Zika risk assessment statement identifying the potential spread of Zika throughout the "European Region", and concluded that the A. albopictus, more widely known as the Asian Tiger Mosquito that is native to Southeast Asia, is potentially one of the two primary vectors of the Zika virus.

The Keys district has also agreed to work with Oxitec, a company that has developed a genetically modified Aedes aegypti that produces nonviable offspring. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration initially approved a trial in a residential neighborhood near Key West, saying the test would not significantly affect the environment, but outrage from anti-GMO activists and residents forced the district to find a new location. "We need to determine if live Zika virus can also be transmitted in Aedes albopictus", said Smartt.

The FDA is seeking public comment on a proposal clarifying which mosquito-related products it regulates and which ones would be regulated by the EPA.

As of Friday, California has had 533 confirmed Zika infections, all of which were travel related, and as of April 12, the county's Public Health Department laboratory has processed 320 samples for Zika testing, including 82 from pregnant women.

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