Friday, 18 August, 2017

Alphabet science unit to target Zika carrying insects with 20m mosquitoes

'Mosquito factory' churns out sterile males produced without genetic modification to fight Zika Discovery of mosquito linked to Zika Virus no cause for concern
Steve Phelps | 23 July, 2017, 01:40

But it's a good thing.

Since most Houstonians avoid the outdoors during the hot, humid summer months, they are less likely to be exposed to the mosquitoes carrying the virus.

The released mosquitoes will be bred and infected with Wolbachia - a bacterium that is "naturally found in at least 40 percent of all insect species", according to The Scientist magazine.

In 2002, the threat of West Nile Virus prompted an upgrade in numerous city's mosquito control efforts.

"Over time, we hope to see a steep decline in the presence of Aedes aegypti in these communities", Verily said in a statement.

The mosquitoes will be released at a rate of one million per week for 20 weeks across two 300-acre neighborhoods in Fresno.

The swarm's target is Aedes aegypti, a mosquito breed that carries viruses like zika, dengue, and chikungunya diseases and which arrived in California's Central Valley just four years ago. The organisation was formerly a division of Google X until August 2015 when they became an independent subsidiary of Alphabet Inc.

The campaign, which starts on Friday, is run by Verily Life Sciences, which is part of Alphabet - the multibillion company that owns Google, the world's biggest online search company.

The team at Verily piloted the first USA release of male mosquitoes with Wolbachia into the Fresno area in 2016. All 20 million of the bugs released are males and are infected with a bacteria which prevents female mosquitos from laying live eggs.

"When a male who is caring it mates with a female who does not, the eggs are not viable".

"Even though they're not actively and now transmitting disease in California, we have to try to stay ahead of these diseases", Jodi Holeman, scientific-technical services director at CMAD said.

The company claims that it managed decreases of up to 80% in Asian Tiger populations in some areas of treatment.

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