Health Care

20 million sterile mosquitoes to be released in California

20 million sterile mosquitoes to be released in California

And now, Verily is launching Debug Fresno, the company's first field study in the USA that will test a mosquito control method that involves sterile insect technique.

The plan is to release one million mosquitoes each week over a 20-week period.

The weird move is actually a good thing according to scientists, with the infected sterile pests being used to fight diseases such as Zika, dengue and chikungunya - a mosquito-borne viral disease transmitted to humans.

The mosquitoes being released around Fresno, Calif., are males altered with the help of a naturally occurring bacterium; when they mate with females in the wild, their resulting eggs are duds. Their method involves infecting the male mosquitoes with a bacteria called Wolbachia. This initiative, dubbed the "Debug Project", is actually part of public health effort to fight the very mosquito populations that spread nasty scourges like the deformity-causing Zika virus.

Researchers from Verily, Mosquito Mate, which is a private biotechnology company, Fresno County mosquito control services, and Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District (CMAD), will compare the adult population density and number of eggs hatched to measure any changes.

In the case of the Debug Fresno project, the company will release one million mosquitoes per week over 20 weeks across two neighborhoods.

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Verily, the life science unit from Alphabet, Google's parent company, announced the official launch of Debug Fresno, the first stage in its Debug Project. And Fresno residents need not worry about the 20-million male mosquitos because male mosquitos don't bite! The bacterium is considered harmless to humans.

The first breed of Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes was made by scientists at Monash University in Australia. This disease carrying species is perhaps best known for spreading the Zika virus as well as dengue, and also others.

The release of the treated male insects in Fresno is the largest such field trial in the U.S.to date.

An automated mosquito mass rearing process has been developed at Verily. But, by collaborating with Verily, the study is now 25 times more than they did before.

The mass pest release is part of the Debug Project - the biggest United States study to set free mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia, a common reproductive parasite. "We want to show this can work in different kinds of environments", he told the magazine.


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