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March 24, 2016

Study: Most Americans support release of genetically modified mosquitoes to fight Zika

FDA tentatively approves field test in Florida

More than half of American adults support scientists releasing genetically-modified mosquitoes to minimize the spread of the Zika virus in the United States, according to a survey conducted by The Annenberg Public Policy Center of The University of Pennsylvania.

The Food and Drug Administration tentatively has approved releasing genetically modified male mosquitoes that carry a gene designed to kill their offspring. But final approval will not occur until the FDA completes its public comment process.

The survey found 53 percent of adults favor releasing genetically engineered insects. Only 29 percent of respondents opposed the move. Another 17 percent did not have an opinion.

The FDA determined last week that releasing genetically engineered Aedes aegypti mosquitoes – the species that carries Zika – in a Florida site would not have a significant environmental impact.

A British company, Oxitec, and the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District would conduct a field test in Key Haven, Florida. Genetically altered mosquitoes would be released three times a week for as long as 22 months to determine whether the wild mosquito population declines.

The Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which also carry Yellow Fever, Dengue and West Nile Virus, are not found in the Philadelphia region.

Zika is a relatively benign disease, but its connections to microcephaly have sparked considerable concern. It primarily spreads via mosquitoes, but also can be transmitted via sexual intercourse.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged pregnant women to avoid any unnecessary travel to infected areas, which include much of Central and South America.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center conducted the survey via telephone from March 16-20. It used a sample of 1,012 adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percent.

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