Researchers are set to release thousands of bacteria-infected mosquitoes in neighborhoods throughout South Miami in a new effort to fight Zika and other viruses.
The plan is designed to reduce the mosquito populations without the use of genetic modification, by instead using the naturally occurring Wolbachia bacteria to thwart reproductive success.
When males infected with the bacteria mate with the wild female population, the resulting eggs will die before they’re able to hatch.
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The plan is designed to reduce the mosquito populations without the use of genetic modification, by instead using the naturally occurring Wolbachia bacteria to thwart reproductive success. File photo
The launch of the Miami-Dade County Mosquito Reduction Test Program is the latest effort in a collaboration from the University of Kentucky and MosquitoMate.
The first infected males will be released this week.
Wolbachia can be found naturally in roughly 60 percent of insect species, including butterflies, dragonflies, and some types of mosquitoes.
The researchers are using it to target a type of mosquito called Aedes aegypti, which is known to spread an array of diseases, including Zika, dengue, and yellow fever.
‘Wolbachia is special because it can prevent an insect from reproducing,’ the firm explains in a video about the project.
‘This phenomenon is known as cytoplasmic incompatibility. If a male mosquito that has Wolbachia mates with a female that doesn’t, the eggs laid by that female will die.
‘They will not hatch, they will not become larvae, and they will not turn into adults.
‘So what we need for cytoplasmic incompatibility to occur is for males that have Wolbachia to mate with females that don’t.’
While mosquito activity will rise in these areas, that doesn’t mean people will be getting more bites, the experts explain.
The initiative will only be releasing male mosquitos – and, these do not bite or blood feed.
‘It will take the release of thousands of male mosquitos that have Wolbachia,’ according to the firm.
‘And in time, we may see the number of mosquitoes start to go down.’
A similar trial began near Key West last spring – but, Hurricane Irma’s landfall in the Florida Keys interrupted the final weeks of monitoring for that trial.
Verily revealed a plan to to release 20 million bacteria-filled mosquitos in the heart of California this past summer. The technique launched today by Verily’s Debug project uses a naturally occurring bacteria that causes them to produce dud eggs
The results are still pending.
MosquitoMate also collaborated with Verily Life Sciences, an offshoot of Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc, and Fresno County’s Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District, this past summer to release the bacteria-infected mosquitoes in Fresno, California.
Experts spearheading the effort say it could finally provide a way to take on the ‘deadliest animal in the world,’ preventing mosquito-borne illnesses and ultimately saving lives.