Google’s sister company, Verily, is set to release 20 million bacteria-infected male mosquitoes in central California in a bid to help cut the rate of disease transmission,
The release is planned as part of the life sciences division at Alphabet (the parent company of Google), is Verily’s attempt at curtailing the population of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes that most likely carry dangerous diseases within California include Aedes aegypti – known to be a vector for yellow fever, dengue fever, chikungunya, and even Zika.
While these diseases are not a current threat to people in California, it is predicted that they will be in the future. Once the climate shifts, the mosquitoes and the diseases they carry will spread too.
The release is known as “Debug Fresno,” has taken place in Fresno with 1 million of the male mosquitoes having been released so far. Verily is aiming to release 1 million every week for 20 weeks.
The mosquitoes are infected with a naturally occurring bacteria that makes some insects, such as the A. aegypti mosquito, sterile. They are not genetically modified.
The bacteria is a parasitic microorganism known as Wolbachia pipientis. It is thought to be one of the most common pathogens on the planet to alter the reproductive system of insects.
Wolbachia pipientis was capable of infecting 76% of insects studied, and the degree of damage varied from species to species.
After the male mosquitoes are infected, they become sterile. The hope is that if enough infected males are released into the wild, then all the males that wild females mate with will also be sterile thereby drastically reducing the mosquito population.
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