Fighting Mosquitoes With Mosquitoes
July 26, 2017
Over the next 20 weeks, 20 million mosquitoes will be released in Fresno, California, in order to fight mosquito-borne diseases, including Zika.
WHAT IS THE PROJECT?
The plan is part of the Debug Project, an initiative under Alphabet Inc.-owned Verily Life Sciences to reduce the devastating global health impact that disease-carrying mosquitoes inflict on people around the world. Verily has created a robot that raises about one million mosquitoes every week in an automated lab. It uses them to produce infertile male insects treated with naturally occurring Wolbachia bacteria, and has used its custom-built machines and algorithms to increase its production of mosquitoes.
HOW’S THE BACTERIA HELPFUL?
According to Verily, Wolbachia blocks the replication of mosquito-borne viruses such as Zika, dengue and chikungunya, ultimately stopping the spread of disease to humans. The bacterium is incapable of passing through a mosquito’s saliva and is not known to be dangerous to humans. A 2016 ecological risk assessment conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA ) concluded that altered mosquitoes like those used in this trial will not harm other organisms.