Oxitec

The race is on as to where the first genetically modified (GM) organisms will be released into the environment in the United States.

Florida came close last year with a plan to release GM mosquitoes from the company Oxitec to combat viral infections such as dengue, Zika, and chikungunya. However, the plan was foiled when a "no" vote from one area's constituents, Key Haven, put the plan on hold for a few more years. 

The release of GM organisms is not limited to mosquitoes or warm climates, however. In fact, New York is well on its way to release GM diamondback moths (Plutella xylostella) in an effort to keep its crops safe from destruction. If it happens, this will be the first release of GM organisms in the United States.  

The permit application for a...

To people living in the Caribbean, a mosquito bite is far more than an itch. Each one brings the potential of contracting a deadly disease. Facing that daily reality could make even the most science-averse person jump onto the biotech bandwagon, including the release of genetically modified mosquitoes to prevent infection, and the people of the Caribbean island of Saba are leading the way. 

To investigate some concerns about the release of genetically modified mosquitoes, the Executive Council of Saba requested an evaluation by The Netherlands National Institute of Public Health and the Environment's (RIVM) Genetically Modified Organisms Office. Saba is one of the three Caribbean special municipalities of The Netherlands (along with Bonaire...

Florida is in the middle of a major 'not in my backyard' brouhaha at the moment and biotechnology is at the center of the debate.

During the election earlier this month, Monroe County, Florida voters cast their ballots to allow the first release in the United States of genetically modified mosquitoes made by Oxitec. These mosquitoes contain a "death gene" (a more complete description of how they work can be found here.) The male mosquitoes, when released, mate with female mosquitoes to create offspring that do not survive into adulthood. The release of these mosquitoes reduces the overall population to such an extent that the spread of viruses such as Zika is...

Insect repellent, screens on windows, wearing long sleeves -- there is a limit to the precautions that we can take to protect ourselves from viruses that are spread by mosquitoes.

Even by taking all of the above steps, there is no way to have guaranteed protection from mosquito bites.

But, there is one idea that would put an end to all other methods of mosquito repellents.... what if there were no mosquitoes?

That is the idea behind the work of the company Oxitec. They have engineered a mosquito that leads to a decrease in the Aedes aegypti mosquito population. Here is how it works. The company has created a strain of mosquito that is "self limiting" meaning that they have a "death gene" added...

Sunset In The KeysLast month we wrote about British biotech firm, Oxitec, aiming to release their genetically engineered mosquitoes in Key Haven, Florida, this spring. The mosquitoes were developed to help fight dengue and chikungunya, which are two viruses spread by the dangerous and difficult-to-control Aedes aegypti mosquito. However, according to an article in...

153665_8594Dengue and chikungunya are both viruses spread by a species of mosquito known as Aedes aegypti. Dengue sickens 50 million people worldwide and chikungunya infected about one million people in the Caribbean last year, as well as in Virginia, Florida and Puerto Rico. Insecticides are used to kill these mosquitos, but the mosquitos have developed resistance to many of those used.

Similar to the work done by researchers in London who developed a technique to control malaria, involving manipulating the genes...