March 19, 2018

Google Is Releasing 20 Million Bacteria-Infected Mosquitoes in Fresno

17 July 2017, 04:10 | Winifred Adams

Alphabet's Verily releasing 20 million mosquitos this summer to counter disease-carrying insects

A tech firm is set to release 20 million bacteria-filled mosquitos in the heart of California. The technique launched today by Verily’s Debug project uses a naturally occurring bacteria that causes them to produce dud eggs

Google's healthcare arm Verily announced just before the weekend it will release twenty million sterile male mosquitoes into the wild, in Fresno County, California. They aren't genetically engineered-rather, Verily (in collaboration with MosquitoMate and Fresno County) cooked up a project to infect the bugs with the Wolbachia bacteria.

If all goes according to plan, given short life cycles, the number of skeeters will soon plummet - and scientists will study the ecological impact.

With the help of scientists, engineers, and Verily's global partners, the Debug Project aims to propagate bacteria-infected mosquitoes in hopes of eventually minimizing, if not completely eradicating, the population of disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Modified mosquitoes such as those being released by Verily are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), coming under the heading of "microbial pest control".

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Aedes aegypti mosquitoes first arrived in Fresno in 2013, Bloomberg reports. Verily's effort makes use of an automated sex-sorting procedure to ensure that only males are released, as males do not bite humans.

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.

In addition, on-the-ground release devices also allow the mosquitos to be released in an "even and targeted way" during the breeding season.

Solving the global mosquito problem is one that is far more complicated than just spraying them with pesticides. The mosquitos will be released from Debug Fresno's "Mobile Mosquito Unit" vans. Over time, we hope to see a steep decline in the presence of Aedes aegypti in these communities. Aimed at reducing the global impact of the disease-carrying insect, this is the Alphabet company's first USA field study.

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