The first groups of 20 million sterilized mosquitoes have already been released in Fresno County, California. 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 mosquitos.
The skeeters in question are male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which carry pathogens that cause illnesses like Zika, dengue, and chikungunya. It's certainly worth a swat.
The invasive mosquito species first surfaced in Fresno in 2013, but no cases of the diseases mentioned have yet been reported. Verily's Debug Project is the only plausible method to get rid of the potential threat by combating Zika-carrying mosquitos.
But the bacterial infection has one major, advantageous side effect: Males carrying it which mate with female mosquitoes create non-viable eggs. And, as a bonus, these male mosquitoes in question don't actually bite (likely a huge source of relief for Fresno-area residents who are about to be inundated with the new mosquito pool).
To measure our outcomes, we will compare the adult population density and egg hatching of Aedes aegypti in these targeted areas to two control neighborhoods.
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For any residents anxious about a sudden increase in mosquitos during the trial, it is worth noting that males do not bite or transmit disease to humans.
The study will take place over a 20-week period. Over time, we hope to see a steep decline in the presence of Aedes aegypti in these communities.
"Field studies allow us to test our discoveries and technologies in challenging, real-world conditions and collect the necessary evidence to bring them to a broader scale", Verily says.
Verily has not revealed how much Debug Project is going to cost, but Linus Upson, the Debug Project member, revealed that Verily has planned to do something similar in Australia after Fresno.