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Research Letter
August 15, 2017

Public Response to a Proposed Field Trial of Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes in the United States

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego
  • 2Department of Geography and Regional Studies, University of Miami, Miami, Florida
  • 3Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, University of California, San Diego
  • 4Department of Informatics, University of California, Irvine
  • 5Qualcomm Institute, University of California, San Diego
JAMA. 2017;318(7):662-664. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.9285

Despite an increase in vector-borne diseases in the United States, there has been public opposition to novel vector control methods, particularly those that leverage advances in genetic engineering.1 In 2016, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) invited public comments on a draft environmental assessment2 for a proposed field trial of a genetically engineered mosquito (OX513A) designed to suppress wild-type Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which can transmit diseases such as Zika, dengue, and chikungunya. Trials of OX513A in other countries have demonstrated reductions in numbers of A aegypti.3

The environmental assessment indicated the trial would be unlikely to adversely affect the environment in Key Haven, Florida, the proposed trial site. We assessed public response to this proposed trial based on the content of public comments submitted to the FDA because the views expressed in such public forums may influence testing and deployment. In addition, given that individual informed consent for such environmental interventions is not feasible, efforts to understand and respond to public concerns are critical for maintaining public trust in public health activities.4