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House Members Support Modified Mosquitoes To Combat Zika

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Alexandre Carvalho (Oxitec)
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

With the number of locally transmitted Zika cases continuing to climb, 61 members of the Florida House have signed a letter urging federal officials to allow the use of genetically engineered mosquitoes to help combat the virus.

Incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, and incoming Minority Leader Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, announced last week they would urge the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the federal Food & Drug Administration to approve use of the genetically engineered mosquitoes developed by the company Oxitec.

Mosquito-borne Zika, which emerged last year in South America and has spread to Florida, can cause severe birth defects.

The letter, delivered Tuesday to the federal agencies, was backed by a bipartisan majority of the 120-member state House.

"We ask you to stand by the people of Florida in our time of need and use your legal authority to grant us access to a new source of hope in the fight against the spread of this terrible virus," the letter said.

Information on Oxitec's website said the company's mosquitoes are genetically engineered so that their offspring die before adulthood. The company's male mosquitoes, which do not bite or transmit diseases, are released to breed with wild female mosquitoes, and the offspring die, reducing the mosquito population, the website said.

The Florida Department of Health reported Tuesday that the state has had 56 cases of locally transmitted Zika. The state also has 577 travel-related cases and 80 infections involving pregnant women. Travel-related cases involve people being infected elsewhere and bringing the virus into the state.