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Since We Last Spoke: Killer Mosquitoes

New twists on past stories.

By Madeleine Thomas


A biologist releases genetically modified mosquitoes in Piracicaba, Brazil. (Photos: Victor Moriyama/Getty Images)

Editor’s Note: A version of this story first appeared on on August 10th, 2016, with the headline “Could Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes By Zika’s Worst Enemy?” This edited version was published in our November/December 2016 print issue.

In a 2012 article for Pacific Standard (“Weaponizing Mosquitoes to Fight Tropical Diseases”), Linda Marsa chronicled the revolutionary role that biologically modified mosquitoes played in combating Australia’s 2009 dengue fever outbreak. Officials in the United States are now considering the release of genetically modified bloodsuckers into the wild to combat a new infective threat: the Zika virus. The Food and Drug Administration advised in early August that a proposed field trial in Key Haven, Florida, “will not have significant impacts on the environment,” setting the stage for a controlled release of mosquitoes bioengineered so that 95 percent of their offspring will die before reaching adulthood. Oxitec, a pioneering United Kingdom-based biotech firm featured in Marsa’s story for its role in developing the modified insects, would conduct the trial. Residents will vote on the matter this month.