Mutant Mosquito Prepped For Key West Release

By Amir Khan on July 16, 2012 11:00 AM EDT

Mosquito
A swarm of mutant mosquitos could soon be flying though Key West, Fla (Photo: Creative Commons)

A swarm of mutant mosquitos could soon be flying though Key West, Fla. The British company Oxitec plans to release between 5,000 and 10,000 genetically altered mosquitos to help curb the native mosquito population, according to the Florida Keys Keynoter.

The mosquitos are designed to mate with the native stock and produce offspring that die very quickly, suppressing cases of Dengue fever in the area. Dengue fever is a disease that causes flu-like symptoms and can be fatal.

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Residents of the area are unhappy with the plan, however, and have rallied behind an online petition calling for Florida Governor Rick Scott and the Chairman of the Florida Keys Mosquito Board of Commission to put a stop to it. More than 103,000 people have signed the petition so far.

"The Florida Keys is a beautiful place, and it's my home," Mila de Mier, the resident who started the petition, told Orlando's WKMG-TV Local 6. "We won't be lab rats just so this company can make money. Oxitec says we have to do this to control mosquitoes, but it's just not true. Other methods of mosquito control are working. We don't need to gamble with mutant mosquitoes."

She also said the community does not want the mutant mosquitos released, and hopes the government will listen and reject the "animal bug" patent the company has applied for.

"The whole country, not just our local community, is sending a very strong message: It's not OK to use people as an experiment," de Mier told the Florida Keys Keynoter.

De Mier also said she doesn't want her family to be "guinea pigs."

"I hate mosquitoes and my kids get bit," she said. "At first I thought this seemed like a good idea. But the more questions we ask, the more questions we have."

However, Oxitec maintains that the mosquitos are safe. All of the mutant mosquitos are male, which cannot bite. Residents and petition signees are not so sure.

Oxitec did not return a request for comment.

There is no word on when the mosquitos could be released.

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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