World, Health, Science-Technology

Cayman Islands to use GM mosquitoes to stop Zika

Millions of male mosquitoes to be released beginning in June

06.05.2016
Cayman Islands to use GM mosquitoes to stop Zika

Dominican Republic

By Senabri Silvestre

SANTO DOMINGO. Dom. Rep.

A British biotech company will deploy genetically modified mosquitoes on the Cayman Islands to control the spread of the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases.

The Oxitec firm said Thursday it is going to release millions of male mosquitoes weekly on the small Caribbean island for nine months, beginning in June.

"The first trial proved that this approach works and now we have the opportunity to help protect more people from this mosquito," said Glen Slade, head of business development at Oxitec, according to PR newswire.

The goal is to spread modified male mosquitoes that will mate with females and produce offspring that will not survive to adulthood. That should dramatically reduce the population of the Aedes aegypti species of the insect that is responsible for the Zika virus, dengue fever and chikungunya, according to the company.

Oxitec has conducted tests on the small British territory in the Caribbean of just 57,000 inhabitants, as well as in Brazil and Panama.

Bill Petrie, director of the Cayman Islands Mosquito Research and Control Unit, said the government approved the measure after the success of a peer-reviewed trial in 2010.

The first suppression test successfully reduced the target mosquito population by 96 percent.

While the Cayman Islands are still free of a Zika outbreak that has spread to more than 40 Latin Americans countries, it has the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

"We believe this environmentally friendly tool can greatly reduce the population of Aedes aegypti and has the potential to eliminate it from Grand Cayman," Petrie said.

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