In this Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 photo, Key West, Fla. resident Joel Biddle gestures as he speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Key West. Biddle was one of the 93 cases of dengue fever were reported in Key West in 2009 and 2010. The British company Oxitec and mosquito control officials hope to release genetically modified mosquitoes to control the Aedes aegypti mosquito population, that can transmit dengue fever, without using pesticides and at relatively a low cost. But some Key West residents and environmental groups think the genetically modified mosquitoes pose a bigger threat than regular dengue or even dengue hemorrhagic fever. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) — Mosquito control officials in the Florida Keys are waiting for the federal government to sign off on an experiment that would release hundreds of thousands of genetically modified mosquitoes to reduce the risk of dengue fever in the tourist town of Key West.
If approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it would be the first such experiment in the U.S. Some Key West residents worry, though, that not enough research has been done to determine the risks that releasing genetically modified mosquitoes might pose to the Keys’ fragile ecosystem.
Officials are targeting the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes because they can spread dengue fever, a disease health officials thought had been eradicated in the U.S. until 93 cases originated in the Keys in 2009 and 2010.
The trial planned by mosquito control officials and the British company Oxitec would release non-biting male mosquitoes that have been genetically modified to pass along a birth defect that kill their progeny before reaching maturity. The idea is that they will mate with wild females and their children will die before reproducing. After a few generations, Key West’s Aedes aegypti population would die off, reducing the dengue fever risk without using pesticides and at relatively a low Login to read more