- Thousands of people gave their approval to FDA for the release
- A team genetically modified non-biting male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes
- They carry a gene that stops their offspring from surviving outside a lab
- Scientists hope they will breed with wild females and flood the population with this gene
- Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are most common carriers of the Zika virus
- Same program is already under way in Brazil and the Cayman Islands
Killer mutant mosquitoes are set to be released in Miami in a desperate bid to control the Zika virus.
The US Food and Drug Administration gave its final approval for a field trial releasing the genetically modified insects in the Florida Keys on Friday.
After considering thousands of public comments, it concluded the proposal from biotech firm Oxitec would not significantly affect the environment.
The mosquitoes are a batch of non-biting male Aedes aegyptis.
They have been genetically-modified to carry a gene that kills its offspring outside of a lab.
Scientists hope these mutant mosquitoes will breed with wild females to infiltrate the population, killing it off.
Mutant killing mosquitoes are set to be released in Miami in a bid to control the Zika virus. They have been genetically-modified to carry a gene that kills its offspring outside of a lab
No mosquitoes will be released immediately.
Keys officials will hold a nonbinding vote on the proposal for residents in November.
Oxitec releases nonbiting male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes modified with synthetic DNA to produce offspring that die outside a lab.
The method aims to reduce mosquito populations that spread Zika and other viruses.
Brazil and the Cayman Islands are releasing Oxitec’s insects.
The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District wants to test them on an island north of Key West.
The news comes a day after the CDC announced that aerial sprays of insect repellent are finally having an effect.
Health officials had feared the insects had grown a resistance to insecticide.
Florida began aerial spraying the one-mile radius of Miami on Wednesday in a bid to control the rapidly-spreading virus.
Fifteen people have been diagnosed with the virus despite not traveling to a Zika-infected region or having sex with a Zika-infected person.
Finally: Mosquitoes were resisting on-the-ground bug spray in Miami (pictured this week) but the first bout of aerial spray has successfully killed off a significant number of adult insects
Outbreak: 15 people have been diagnosed with Zika in this one-mile region of Miami, Florida, despite not traveling to a Zika-infected region or having sex with a Zika-infected person
Though no mosquitoes have yet tested positive for Zika, health officials have found no other reason for the spread, which happened in a matter of weeks.
But this week CDC chief Dr Tom Frieden sparked fears as he ominously speculated that the mosquitoes appeared to be resisting all attempts to wipe them out.
On Thursday, there was fresh hope at combating the infection as Florida reported strong results from the first bout of aerial spray.
Dr Frieden announced that the spraying has quickly killed adult mosquitoes which pesticides on the ground couldn’t reach.
Puerto Rico’s governor wouldn’t authorize use of the spray because of environmental concerns, despite widespread Zika infections there.
Dr Frieden says minuscule amounts sprayed at dawn and dusk have no effect on people.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ZIKA
WHAT IS ZIKA?
The Zika (ZEE’-ka) virus was first discovered in monkey in Uganda in 1947 – its name comes from the Zika forest where it was first discovered.
It is native mainly to tropical Africa, with outbreaks in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.
It appeared in Brazil in 2014 and has since been reported in many Latin American countries and Caribbean islands.
HOW IS IT SPREAD?
The World Health Organization says Zika is rapidly spreading in the Americas because it is new to the region.
People aren’t immune to it, and the Aedes mosquito that carries it is just about everywhere – including along the southern United States.
Canada and Chile are the only places without this mosquito.
It is typically transmitted through bites from the Aedes species of mosquitoes.
They are aggressive feeders, commonly biting multiple people in quick succession, fueling the spread of the virus.
The Aedes aegypti – which spreads other tropical diseases like dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever – is most commonly associated with Zika. It thrives in warm climates.
Its cousin, the Aedes albopictus has also been linked to Zika. Worryingly for Americans in northern states, this species can survive in cooler temperatures.
Unlike some other types of mosquitos, Aedes mosquitos are active during the daytime.
They are most active during mid-morning and then again between late afternoon and nightfall.
Scientists have found Zika can be transmitted sexually – from both men and women.
Couples should abstain or wear condoms for eight weeks if either partner has traveled to a country with a Zika outbreak, regardless of whether they have symptoms.
The first case of sexually-transmitted Zika during the current outbreak was reported in Texas at the beginning of February.
Pregnancy: The infection can take two routes – through the placenta and through the amniotic sac
The woman became infected after sexual contact with a man who had caught the virus in another country.
On July 15, it was confirmed that women can pass the virus to men after such a case was seen in New York City.
There are also reported cases of sexual transmission in France and Canada.
Prior to this outbreak, there was a case of sexual transmission of Zika in 2008 when researcher from Colorado, who caught the virus overseas, infected his wife on returning home.
MOTHER TO BABY
A mother can pass the virus to her unborn baby during pregnancy.
There are two ways this can happen, according to a recent study.
Through the placenta: During the first trimester, it can travel through the placenta by infecting numerous placental cells – something very few viruses can do.
This route is the most damaging to the fetus, and is most likely to leave the child with birth defects, including microcephaly.
Through the amniotic sac: In the second and third trimester, the virus can make its way through the amniotic sac.
This route is less likely. The baby would have a much smaller risk of birth defects at this stage than if it were infected in the first trimester.
During childbirth: Since the virus can live in the woman’s womb lining, there is a chance the baby can become infected when it is born.
ARE THERE SYMPTOMS?
The majority of people infected with Zika virus will not experience symptoms.
Those that do, usually develop mild symptoms – fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes – which usually last no more than a week.
There is no specific treatment for the virus and there is currently no vaccine to protect against infection, though several are in the developmental stages.
CAN THE SPREAD BE STOPPED?
Individuals can protect themselves from mosquito bites by using insect repellents, and wearing long sleeves and long pants – especially during daylight, when the mosquitoes tend to be most active, health officials say.
Eliminating breeding spots and controlling mosquito populations can help prevent the spread of the virus.