They are targeting the female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes which transmit dengue, Zika and other diseases in people.
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The British company Oxitec is deploying a total of 144,000 genetically modified mosquitoes to study how to control their reproduction and thus stop the spread of dengue, Zika, and other types of ailments in humans and animals.
As reported by Axios , the company, which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation , released the mosquitoes a week ago from the Florida Keys.
In a statement, Oxitec explained that this experiment seeks to study ways to stop the reproduction of Aedes aegypti , the main transmitters of potentially fatal diseases.
Why are Oxitec mosquitoes different? According to the company, the males in their insect cloud have a modified gene, called OX5034, that restricts the survival of the females they mate with. Thus, mosquitoes will not grow large enough to bite humans (only females consume blood; males feed on nectar).
Oxitec noted that this species only represents 4% of the mosquito population in Florida, but it is the most disease-transmitting species. They have already released millions of modified insects around the world, including in Brazil and the Cayman Islands.