No, a Bill Gates-Funded Mosquito Project Did Not Cause a Malaria Outbreak in the U.S.

Eva Hagan - Author

Aug. 3 2023, Published 3:47 p.m. ET

Bill Gates talks onstage.
Source: Getty Images

Bill Gates talks onstage at 92Y on May 3, 2022 in New York City.

A total of five malaria cases have been reported in the U.S. in 2023, four in Florida and one in Texas. Malaria has essentially been nonexistent in the U.S. since 2003, the last known time people caught the disease.

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So, the seemingly unexplainable return of the mosquito-borne disease has allowed conspiracy theories to spread across social media, with claims that the rare cases were part of an initiative backed by Bill Gates to release genetically modified mosquitoes.

However, when looking at the facts, it's clear that these claims are false.

Bill Gates sits in a chair onstage at the TIME100 Summit.
Source: Getty Images

Bill Gates onstage at the TIME100 Summit at Jazz at Lincoln Center on June 7, 2022.

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Did Bill Gates release mosquitoes that cause malaria?

The internet theory that billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates finances GMO mosquito release projects that cause malaria through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is false.

The Gates Foundation has actually long supported programs to stop the spread of malaria. The conspiracy theory has largely derived from the Gates Foundation's support of Oxitec, a biotech company that releases genetically-modified mosquitoes in Florida for disease control.

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However, the claims that these mosquitoes are spreading malaria still hold no basis, because these mosquitoes are not even the kind that spread malaria. The genetically modified mosquitoes released by Oxitec are male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, made to combat Dengue fever and the Zika virus by carrying a protein that kills female offspring, reducing the population, per AP News.

Comments from conspiracy theorists like Liz Churchill, who actually calls herself a conspiracy theorist, miss on the facts, as noted by Forbes. She tweeted: “It must be a coincidence that from 2003-2023 there wasn’t one case of Malaria spread by mosquitos…and along comes a company funded by Bill Gates…to solve a problem that didn’t exist…and suddenly in the exact places where he releases mosquitos…there’s an outbreak of Malaria?”

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First of all, Oxitec released mosquitoes in the Florida Keys, not Sarasota County, Fla., where the four malaria cases were reported. Another issue is that Oxitec's genetically modified mosquitoes were not the kind that carries malaria. Furthermore, Oxitec only releases male mosquitoes, because only the females bite, per Forbes.

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The mosquito project holds a lot of support beyond the Gates Foundation.

According to Snopes, although Bill Gates headlined almost every conspiracy story on genetically modified mosquitoes, the Gates Foundation is just one of many entities supporting the research and release of Oxitec's genetically modified mosquitoes.

An Adopt-A-Highway sign above a Florida Keys Mosquito Control District sign.
Source: iStock
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the project in May 2020, under the parameters that the study received state and local approval in Monroe County, Fla., and Harris County, Texas, where the mosquitoes would be released. This news was met with lots of pushback from the public, leading the EPA to publish a 150-page response to public concerns and explain its reasoning to move forward.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services also gave its approval, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and its Prevention National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.

So, despite what Twitter has to say, Bill Gates is not behind the 2023 malaria cases in the U.S.

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