20 million mosquitoes to hit Fresno; that's a good thing, really

Elias Hubbard
July 17, 2017

Verily's mosquitoes, all male, are infected with a type of bacteria (Wolbachia) that makes females' eggs unable to produce offspring. Verily's Debug Project is the only plausible method to get rid of the potential threat by combating Zika-carrying mosquitos. That's good news, because the species of mosquito being used Aedes aegypti is an invasive species that can carry and transmit Zika and other diseases.

Previously known as Google Life Sciences, Verily is essentially using the male mosquitoes to fight the current harmful mosquito population. They're infected with a naturally occurring bacteria called Wolbachia. The first groups of 20 million sterilized mosquitoes have already been released in Fresno County, California.

As sci-fi as it sounds, Verily's plan is the need of the hour as Zika-carrying mosquitos are widespread in Fresno.

"This study will be the largest US release to-date of sterile male mosquitoes treated with Wolbachia, a naturally occurring bacterium, and will take place over a 20 week period in two neighborhoods each approximately 300 acres in size", wrote Verily in a blog post.

Once the release has been accomplished, the Verily team will compare the adult population and egg hatching rates in the trial areas to two control neighborhoods. People involved in the project are hoping that the experiment will result in a steep decline in the presence of the mosquitoes in the said areas.

Organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have been working on the bugs for more than a decade, running pilot projects in countries including Indonesia and Brazil.

Mosquito Mate, a local insect control company in Kentucky, previously made their own small field studies in Los Angeles and Fresno area. Now there's the fear of the inevitable mosquito-meets-patient if we don't do something about it.

Upson further added that they are also planning to conduct a field test in Australia later this year to show that their approach can work in different kinds of environment.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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