10:21 GMT +318 February 2018
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    Guilherme Trivellato, from the British biotec company Oxitec, releases genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, a vector for transmitting the Zika virus, in Piracicaba, Brazil, as part of an effort to kill the local Aedes population. (File)

    US Approves Field Test for Anti-Zika Genetically Modified Mosquito

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    The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved an initial field test of a genetically engineered mosquito that could help curb the population of Zika-carrying mosquitos, the agency announced in a press release on Friday.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The Zika virus can cause severe birth defects if contracted by a pregnant woman. The World Health Organization and US Centers for Disease Control have advocated mosquito control to curb the virus-transmitting insect’s population and fight Zika.

    “The FDA has published a final environmental assessment (EA) and finding of no significant impact (FONSI) that agrees with the EA’s conclusion that the proposed field trial will not have significant impacts on the environment,” the release said.

    Oxitec Ltd., an insect control company, developed the OX513A mosquito to combat Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases. The insect is genetically engineered so its offspring will die before reaching adulthood. OX513A is designed to cross-breed with the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the main vector of Zika transmission.

    The FDA approved the release of the genetically engineered (GE) mosquitoes in the area of Key Haven, Florida, where the Zika virus is spreading. The agency clarified that authorizing the test-trial “does not mean that Oxitec’s GE mosquitos are approved for commercial use.”

    The controversial decision to allow the test-release of genetically modified mosquitoes into the environment raised concerns among environmental groups.

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