Verily to Release Millions of Bacteria-Infected Mosquitoes

They create nonviable eggs when infected male mosquitoes mate with wild females, resulting in population decreasing over time.

Last October, Verily announced its initiative to fight mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever and Zika virus.

It’s possible they can be essentially carpet-bombed, and safely, without demolishing ecosystems – and saving who knows how many human lives.

An automated mosquito mass rearing process has been developed at Verily.

As a bonus, male mosquitoes do not bite, so Fresno residents have nothing to worry about.

Aedes aegypti was first spotted in central California in 2013. They’re infected with a naturally occurring bacteria called Wolbachia.

No word from the company on how much something like this will cost, but Linus Upson, an engineer on the team releasing the mosquitoes, told MIT Technology Review the company planned to do something similar in Australia next.

Verily isn’t the first to use Wolbachia mosquitoes for disease control.

“This study will be the largest USA 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. Organisations 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. The Fresno project will be the biggest United States release of sterile mosquitoes to date, Verily says.

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. The study would be conducted by Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District, MosquitoMate, and Verily, and this video is meant to inform residents of the possible activities of this study. The company’s bug-releasing van will start travelling the streets of Fancher Creek, a neighbourhood in Fresno County, on July 14.