Since its appearance back in 2013 in the central valley of California, A. aegypti is considered to have become pervasive in Fresno County.
The plan is to release one million mosquitoes each week over a 20-week period. Researchers working to fight mosquito-borne diseases have always been interested in using the bacteria to kill off local mosquito populations, but it wasn't until this year that they discovered how genes in the bacteria cause mosquitoes to produce nonviable eggs. Verily's mosquitoes, all male, are infected with a type of bacteria (Wolbachia) that makes females' eggs unable to produce offspring.
Verily's mosquitoes were treated with a naturally occurring bacterium called Wolbachia that will help prevent the virus from spreading.
With Debug Fresno, the Debug Project and Verily are testing a "potential mosquito control method using sterile insect technique". "Hopefully you see less and less biting females", said Jodi Holeman, scientific-technical services director of Fresno County's Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District (CMAD).
It may sound counterintuitive, but Alphabet's life sciences unit Verily is releasing about 20 million mosquitoes in Fresno, California in order to fight Zika, the mosquito-borne illness.
Over time, the team hopes to see a dramatic reduction in Aedes aegypti. Male mosquitoes don't bite so they won't bother anyone or spread diseases. Research has found that male mosquitoes infected with the bacteria are rendered sterile. This large field study is just the first of several planned, with another rolling out in Australia later in the year in conjunction with the Australian Commonwealth Scientific Research Organization (CSIRO). The mosquitoes were tested in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Rio de Janeiro as part of a dengue-eradication program which Gates' funded with $40 million United States dollars. If they do, the resulting specimens should die very early on. Create machines that automatically read, count, and sort the mosquitoes by sex, making it possible to create vast quantities for large-scale projects. Now there's the fear of the inevitable mosquito-meets-patient if we don't do something about it. "We want to show this can work in different kinds of environments", he told the magazine.