Bio-engineered mosquitoes can stop spread of dengue, zika and yellow fever

10 November, 2017, 02:01 | Author: Hope Soto
  • What's a 'ZAP Male' mosquito? The EPA just approved it

The male mosquitoes don't bite humans, and mating them with wild female mosquitoes will result in fertilized eggs that don't hatch.

For more than 4,000 years, humans have battled mosquito-borne diseases, and now, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved a line of lab-grown mosquitoes created to reduce the number of these illness-causing insects.

Male mosquitoes infected with a certain bacteria can mate with female, potentially disease carrying mosquitoes, and render them infertile, lowering the mosquito population.

. Mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia are also less likely to carry viruses. Lab-reared mosquitoes will deliver the bacterium to wild mosquito populations. MosquitoMate CEO Stephen Dobson told Gizmodo they will begin releasing the ZAP mosquitoes in Lexington next summer, gradually expanding to other metropolitan areas like Nashville and Louisville.

"It's a non-chemical way of dealing with mosquitoes", David O'Brochta, an entomologist at the University of Maryland in Rockville said in the journal Nature.

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The idea is that infected males will mate with females, and the Wolbachia strain will prevent the offspring from surviving.

Here's how it works: Mosquitomate raises Aedes albopictus mosquitoes in its laboratories infected with a strain of the bacterium called Wolbachia, found naturally in half of all bugs. Targeting the mosquito population of an entire city would require the weekly production of millions of the special mosquitoes. But it's actually the culmination of a 20-year scientific discovery with the objective of eliminating the deadliest vector-borne diseases, including dengue fever and the Zika virus. Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that has been linked to severe birth defects, such as abnormally small heads - a condition known as microcephaly. They wanted to release genetically engineered sterile mosquitoes into the Florida Keys to combat Zika-carrying mosquitoes.

Never reported it officially, but MosquitoMate already preparing for the first releases. "It's unrealistic to think that you can just eliminate a mosquito species as simply as one of these sterile-male control programs wants to do".

MosquitoMate did a trial in New York, Kentucky and California.

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