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Parasites in mosquitos to prevent viruses in mosquitos: deployed in 2017?
Emergence of the Zika virus in 2016 lent additional urgency to efforts intended to curb the rate of mosquito-borne disease transmission.
As transmitters of malaria, dengue, chikungunya, West Nile, Zika, and other diseases, mosquitoes are the world's deadliest animal. Of particular concern is the species Aedes aegypti which is the primary transmitter of Zika virus in the US.
Two approaches to controlling mosquito populations are moving forward. One involves genetically modifying male mosquitoes such that any of their offspring will die as larvae. Oxitec is pursuing this strategy, and has recieved preliminary approval from the FDA to proceed with a trial in the US following previous trials in Brazil, Panama, and the Cayman Islands. In November, Monroe County, FL, which includes the Florida Keys, voted in a non-binding decision to allow the trial in their county. Final details of the trial, including location and start date, are forthcoming.
Another approach does not rely on genetic modification. Mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia bacterial parasites cannot transmit disease, because the parasite interferes with viral replication in the mosquito's cells. Wolbachia can also be used to sterilize mosquitoes, preventing them from reproducing. The latter method requires no genetic modification and fewer regulatory requirements. Several initiatives, including Debug and MosquitoMate are pursuing the Wolbachia route.
Will mosquitoes that have been either genetically modified or infected with Wolbachia be released in the U.S. in 2017?
This question will resolve as positive if a credible news outlet or press release from an organization involved in mosquito control reports an intentional public release (including a small-scale "test" release) of treated mosquito in the United States (including Puerto Rico) with the intent of mosquito control and reduction of mosquito-borne disease on or before Dec 31, 2017.
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