The idea is that the infected mosquitoes will try to mate with wild females, but the eggs laid will not hatch, and the mosquito population will decline over time.
Researchers from Verily will team up with MosquitoMate - a private biotechnology company - and Fresno County's mosquito control services, Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District (CMAD), to compare the adult population density and number of eggs hatched to measure any changes. This keeps the technique from entering the murky ethical debates now surrounding broad releases of genetically modified organisms into our environment.
But the bacterial infection has one major, advantageous side effect: Males carrying it which mate with female mosquitoes create non-viable eggs.
Bonus, male mosquitoes don't bite, so Fresno residents won't have to worry about itching more than they usually would.
Verily Life Sciences is set to release 20 million modified mosquitos in Fresno, California throughout the summer.
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The release is a part of the Debug Fresno project, a field study that aims to rid the central California county of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.
Aedes aegyptis are likely to bite several times before they are full, increasing the chances of the disease spreading.
There have been 5,265 Zika cases reported in the United States so far from people who have traveled and contracted the virus elsewhere.
Male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia were first released into the country in 2016 due to the efforts of CMAD and MosquitoMate, but Verily says with the addition of new robots, automaton, and software algorithms, the breeding of male mosquitos has been increased in volume by 25 times, more than the company was able to produce before.
The first breed of Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes was made by scientists at Monash University in Australia.
"We hope to demonstrate success with Debug Fresno that will benefit the local communities working with us on this study and later other communities globally where Zika, dengue, and chikungunya are endemic". Mosquitoes carry diseases like yellow fever, malaria, dengue, Zika, and chikungunya, among others. If they do, the resulting specimens should die very early on. "We want to show this can work in different kinds of environments", he told the magazine.