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Cayman Islands Using Genetically Modified Mosquitos to Combat Zika

Last week, the British biotech company Oxitec and the Cayman Islands government released thousands of genetically modified mosquitoes in the fight against a species that spreads Zika and other diseases.

To date, there have been three imported cases of Zika in Grand Cayman.

The release of Oxitec’s GM mosquitoes in Grand Cayman started last week, after a short delay due to legal action by an objector to the initiative. In the end, a court allowed the program to continue. Around 10,000 genetically-engineered mosquitoes will be released three times a week in the West Bay area.

The company has deployed its mosquitoes to fight Zika in Brazil following initial trials there and previously conducted tests in the Cayman Islands and Panama. Oxitec and officials in the Florida Keys have proposed testing there as well and are awaiting U.S. regulatory approval.

 Male mosquitoes don’t bite. The company says its modified males will mate with females and produce offspring that will not survive to adulthood, which should dramatically reduce the population of the non-native, disease-spreading Aedes aegypti species in the territory.

Oxitec will begin releasing hundreds of thousands of modified mosquitoes per week on the island of Grand Cayman, home to about 50,000 people, starting in June and continue for at least nine months, said Glen Slade, the company’s head of business development.

The mosquitoes will not be used on the two smaller islands of the British territory, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, which do not have the Aedes aegypti. The company insists it’s not possible for the mosquitoes to fly to other islands or to survive long in the environment if they were to be inadvertently transferred elsewhere. They predict a massive drop in the number of the targeted species on Grand Cayman.

“It’s not unreasonable to think we might achieve elimination,” Slade said.


Rhonda Leavitt Bio Image

Rhonda Leavitt

Rhonda Leavitt is co-owner of Grand Cayman Villas & Condos. She has been enjoying the beauty and fun of Grand Cayman for the last twenty years through family vacations with her four (now grown) children and her husband, Jim. She wants to share her knowledge of the island’s best with you!