The United States Food and Drug Administration (#FDA) have confirmed a genetically modified male mosquito variant can be used in the fight against the #Zika virus

After receiving a clean bill of #Health, the male mosquito, developed by British company Oxitec, will be field-tested in a small Florida neighborhood for its efficacy in eliminating the larvae.

After reviewing public comments on its draft environmental impact study, the U.S. FDA will field test the modified male mosquito, named OX513A, to combat the Zika virus threat. 

Till date, the agency was investigating if the mosquito posed any threat to the humans, and fortunately, has found “no significant impact of the release of our mosquito on human health or the environment."

How will a genetically modified male mosquito help combat Zika?

OX513A is essentially a male Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is the primary species that carries and perpetuates the Zika virus. The male and female of the species are jointly responsible for breeding swarms of larvae that are infected with the

virus.

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With the ongoing summer, the rate of infection is already rising alarmingly. Coupled with the inadequate awareness about the virus, makes it difficult to limit the number of infections.

The male virus has been genetically modified to pass on a lethal gene to breeding female mosquitoes in the wild. The gene doesn’t allow the larvae to mature into full adult mosquitoes, by killing them in the larvae stage itself. Essentially, the gene synthesizes a protein within the larvae that hinders the cell activity that makes the offspring weak.

Incidentally, such male mosquitoes have shown promise during field trials in Brazil, Panama, and the Cayman Islands. According to researchers, within six months, these males were able to wipe out the Aedes aegypti population by over 90 percent and retain the mortality rate.

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This method is a viable option because the mosquitoes seek out and destroy the species by themselves. It is not only a cost effective option but also a very environmentally friendly one.

Other methods, including the release of toxic pesticides, have been proven to work, but they have undesired side-effects and health concerns.

Will Americans accept the trials in their neighborhood?

While the U.S. FDA has given a green signal to the trials, there is a lot of debate among the locals. While many in Florida seem to be against the trials, the developers of the genetically modified mosquito are confident about proceeding in other states that are fighting an uphill battle with the Zika virus.