Incoming leaders of the Florida House said Monday they will urge the federal government to allow the use of genetically engineered mosquitoes to help fight the Zika virus.
Incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, said he plans to ask the federal government to allow emergency use of the technology in areas of Florida where transmission of the mosquito-borne disease might occur.
Incoming House Minority Leader, Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, backed the idea, and other House members have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to sign on.
A draft of a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the federal Food & Drug Administration said the genetically engineered mosquitoes have been developed by the company Oxitec and have been used in the Cayman Islands, Brazil and Panama. 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. Zika, which emerged last year in South America, is particularly dangerous to pregnant women because it can cause severe birth defects.
The number of cases in Florida has grown, with some cases caused by mosquito bites in the state and others involving people bringing the virus into Florida after being infected elsewhere.
"The outbreak of the Zika virus, coupled with the inability of current measures to stop the spread, clearly demonstrate that time is of the essence if we are to beat back the spread of this disease," Corcoran said in a prepared statement early Monday evening.