Verily, formerly Google Life Sciences, announced plans to release 20 million bacteria infected mosquitoes on Fresno, California, to allegedly kill mosquitoes that may carry disease such as Zika, dengue, yellow fever, and chikungunya.
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The company has developed an autonomous robot that can breed 150,000 mosquitoes a week. It plans to release 1 million infected mosquitoes every week for 20 weeks over the summer in an attempt to decrease the wild mosquito population in two 300 acre neighborhoods in the Fresno area.
The non GMO mosquitos have all been infected with “Wolbachia pipientis,” a naturally occurring bacteria that is not harmful to humans, but renders the male mosquitoes essentially sterile. When the non-biting Wolbachia-carrying male mates with a wild female, none of their eggs will be able to produce offspring. Over time, the team hopes that the method will cause the mosquitoes population to drop, noted RT.
This is the largest release of male mosquitoes treated with Wolbachia in the US. The company says they will then use automated devices to release the infected males evenly across the area.
“If we really want to be able to help people globally, we need to be able to produce a lot of mosquitoes, distribute them to where they need to be, and measure the populations at very, very low costs,” Linus Upson, a senior engineer at Verily, told the MIT Technology Review.
The company is working with MosquitoMate and the Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District (CMAD), who have already conducted a similar “sterile insect technique” (SIT). In 2016, they released about 800,000 Wolbachia-infected males in Fresno.
The Environmental Protection Agency said the experiment “presented minimal risks to non-target organisms and the environment” and renewed the experimental use permit to continue the tests.
Verily does not intend to eradicate all mosquitoes in the area, just the Aedes aegypti species, also known as the yellow fever mosquito, which transmits diseases such as Zika, dengue, yellow fever, and chikungunya.
(Article By Jeremiah Jones)