Oxitec's solution is to engineer a gene in the males, which are then released into the wild so they can mate with the females. Any offspring that result from the union will carry an engineered "kill switch" and die before maturing enough to mate or bite, drastically reducing the population.
"We have now released more than 180 million of our male self-limiting mosquitoes worldwide. And there have been no reports of adverse impacts in any of these releases," Warren said.
The trial in the Florida Keys would be the first in the United States.
"The genetically modified mosquitoes are incredibly promising. They've been incredibly successful in many of the cases where they've been tested for Zika so far. I think that they have tremendous promise in the United States, but there are obviously a lot of fears," ecologist Colin Carlson, with the University of California, Berkeley, told Seeker.
Among those opposed to the Florida trial is a group of physicians, led by Dr. John Norris, who have questions about whether Oxitec's mosquitoes, which are dependent on the antibiotic tetracycline to survive, will end up spreading antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
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"We do not know what to expect when millions of mosquitoes are released on small neighborhoods possibly covered in resistant germs," the doctors wrote in a petition to the Florida Keys Mosquito Control Board.
If the board decides to proceed with the trial, the doctors want to conduct a study to see if residents have altered bacterial resistance patterns.
Whether the referendum passes or not, one thing is certain: the spread of the Zika virus in South Florida is growing.
"We're still trying to figure out how severe it's going to be," Carlson said. "From a public health perspective, it's not a great situation."
Pending approval by the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, Oxitec's test could begin next year.