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GM mozzies may fight dengue in US

10 December 2012 10:10

Genetically modified mosquitoes could be used to stop dengue fever in Florida

Genetically modified mosquitoes could be used to stop dengue fever in Florida

An army of genetically modified mosquitoes could be released in the Florida Keys in a bid to cut the risk of dengue fever.

The controversial strategy would see the release of non-biting male mosquitoes, genetically modified to pass on a birth defect that will kill their young before they can reproduce. It is hoped that after a few generations Key West's Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which spread dengue fever, would be killed off. Planned by British firm Oxitec and mosquito control officials, the low-cost project aims to cut the risk of dengue fever in the tourist town without having to use pesticides. The plan needs Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval but some residents fear not enough research has been done to assess the risks of releasing thousands of genetically modified mosquitoes.

In 2009 and 2010 the Keys experienced 93 cases of dengue fever, highlighting the importance of travellers taking out medical travel insurance. Health officials had previously believed the viral disease, which causes severe flu-like symptoms and has no vaccine, had been eradicated in the US.