20 million mosquitoes are expected to be released in 2 communities in Fresno County to test the reduction of a number of disease-carrying mosquitoes called AEDES AEGYPTI. The area has been infested by this Yellow Fever Mosquito for some time now and scientists just want to confirm whether the population of the killer biters is plummeting. Aedes Aegypti is responsible for spreading life-threatening viruses such as Zika, Dengue, and Chikungunya.
Verily, formerly known as Google Life Sciences, has launched an initiative called DEBUG FRESNO. The initiative is a combined field study being carried out in the US using “Sterile Insect Technique” or SIT. The major players of this initiative are Mosquito Mate (a privately held biotechnology company) and Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District or CMAD (a district founded in 1946 in Fresno to protect the public from mosquito borne diseases).
According to MosquitoMate, for the next 5 months (from the beginning of mid-summer), they will release sterile non-biting male mosquitoes through Debug Fresno vans, each morning and before dawn. The community that is a part of the study will have to notice more male mosquitoes in their area.
NPR cited that these male mosquitoes are bred and infected with Wolbachia, a bacterium that is common to many different kinds of insects and many species of mosquitoes. This bacterium is not found in humans and cannot be transferred through an insect bite.
The Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) and Wolbachia work together in a way that if a female mosquito WITHOUT Wolbachia mates with a male mosquito WITH Wolbachia then the female mosquito will have no offspring and will die.
The mosquitoes in Fresno Country called AEDES AEGYPTI have NO Wolbachia so when they mate with the mosquitoes (to be released) that are bred and infected WITH Wolbachia, they will die. If this project succeeds, this will be highly helpful not only to this specific region but also to the whole world.