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

Image Getty

Image Getty

These mosquitoes are under-cover agents that have one goal: to kill other mosquitoes.

"First we're going to prove our business model here in Lexington, Kentucky, but we have approval in 20 states", Karen Dobson, MosquitoMate production manager, told Motherboard. When the bacteria-carrying males mate with wild females, their eggs don't hatch, because Wolbachia prevents the paternal chromosome from forming properly.

Not only are mosquitoes annoying, but they can transmit a whole host of unsafe viruses. Environmental Protection Agency on November 3 registered the lab-grown mosquito as a biopesticide.

MosquitoMate is seeking EPA permission to expand their program to all 50 states, and is also testing the same technique on a different species of mosquito, Aedes aegypti, in the Florida Keys.

Only males will be released outside of the lab because they do not bite.

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"MosquitoMate starts releasing male ZAP mosquitoes weekly in your yard at the beginning of the mosquito season", the company states on its website.

Mosquitoes carrying the bacterium were previously released by the Eliminate Dengue Program in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and MedellĂ­n, Colombia, in October of past year. Image credits: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Public Health Image Library. It will still require millions and millions of mosquitos to have any effect on the population.

3 a new biopesticide, called ZAP Males, that aims to dramatically inhibit the spread of blood-borne diseases affecting humans - including the Zika virus - by reducing the mosquito populations that spread them. Either MosquitoMate will be putting out many jobs ads for "mosquito sorter" or have to automate the process.

For now, the southeastern U.S., which has the densest mosquito populations is excluded from the trials as testing was not conducted under those climates.

The lab-grown mozzies will be deliberately infected with the bacterium Wolbachia pipientis, which affects the insects (but not animals or humans).

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