04:24 GMT24 July 2021
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    A field test that would release genetically modified Aedes mosquitoes, the species responsible for spreading the Zika virus and other tropical diseases, has been given preliminary approval, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in a press release on Friday.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — US law requires a 30-day period for public comment before the FDA can give final approval for the trial, which would take place in the US state of Florida, the release explained.

    "The FDA is also releasing a preliminary finding… that agrees with the draft [environmental assessment’s] conclusion that the field trial of such GE [genetically engineered] mosquitoes will not result in significant impacts on the environment," the release stated.

    The biotechnology Oxitec Ltd developed the mosquitoes, conducted the environmental assessment and applied to conduct the test.

    Oxitec uses advanced genetics to insert a self-limiting gene into its mosquitoes, the company explains on its website.

    Aedes aegypti mosquitos are photographed in a laboratory at the University of El Salvador, in San Salvador
    © AFP 2021 / Marvin RECINOS
    The gene is passed onto the modified insect’s offspring, so when Oxitec mosquitoes are released into the wild and mate with wild females, their offspring will die before reaching adulthood and the local mosquito population will decline, the company says.

    The Aedes mosquito is difficult to control with conventional methods because it lives indoors and bites during daylight hours. Moreover, its bite is so mild that it is difficult for individuals to notice.

    International health authorities are racing to limit Zika virus outbreaks in more than 30 nations and territories in the Americas, which have led to the birth of thousands of babies with a severe birth defect characterized by small heads and limited brain development.


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