Hundreds of thousands of mutated mosquitoes could soon be unleashed in Florida, but don’t worry: scientists say they have a plan. It might sound like something out of a low-budget horror film, but the US Food and Drug Administration really is considering whether or not they should allow scientists to send thousands upon thousands of genetically altered insects into the wild.
If all goes as planned, mosquitos modified by some serious Frankenstein treatment will be introduced into the Florida Keys and ideally mate with skeeters that carry the deadly dengue fever, passing along in the process a fatal birth defect that will hopefully eradicate the offspring before birth. From there, scientists say they expect the population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes infected with the dangerous disease will be decimated in only a few generations without causing any major implications for the native ecosystem.
No vaccination against dengue fever is currently available in any part of the world, and although the mortality rate associated with it is low, it’s still a serious concern. In the Florida Keys where the economy relies on tourism, an epidemic of any sort could be catastrophic. Some fear that sending mutated mosquitos into the environment could have grave implications as well, though, and are asking for more thorough testing before the FDA makes a decision.
Of course, it doesn’t help the scientists’ case that it will take several rounds of releasing genetically modified mosquitos in order for their plan to work. The plan to put lab-altered insects into the ecosystem is expected to not harm any humans since the female mosquitos that bite won’t become infected. Real estate agent Mila de Mier says that she’s still concerned, though, and clearly isn’t the only one: her petition on Change.org, “Say No to Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Release in the Florida Keys,” has garnered over 117,000 signatures.