More than 750 million genetically modified mosquitoes will be released into the Florida Keys in the next two years.
On Tuesday, officials in the Florida Keys approved the release of the modified bugs — a vote that comes as the region grapples with outbreaks of dengue, which, as of earlier this month, has infected 26 people this year.
The approval by the region’s Mosquito Control District comes months after the Environmental Protection Agency previously approved an experimental use permit that granted the British-based, U.S.-operated company Oxitec permission to release these mosquitoes out into the wild.
Oxitec’s mosquito, known as the OX5034, is a genetically modified version of the Aedes aegypti — the type of mosquitos that carries diseases such as the Zika virus and dengue.
All of Oxitec’s are male, which do not feed off blood, and also have a gene that prevents female offspring from surviving to childhood.
Oxitec’s mosquitoes will breed with female mosquitoes, which do rely on blood for their eggs. The hope, the company claims, will be that it will “cause the temporary collapse of a wild population” of female mosquitoes.