Verily, Google’s sister company, is planning to impact the real world as well, not only the digital world. The company wants to fight against Zika and other such rapidly transmitting diseases by setting free around 20 million male mosquitoes in California. The insects have been previously infected with bacteria which makes them sterile.
Mosquitoes are responsible with transmitting many diseases
Verily knows how dangerous mosquitoes can be, and wants to do something to reduce the likelihood of Californians to get infected with serious diseases from these insects. Therefore, they decided to get their attention on the mosquito species responsible with transmitting diseases, Aedes aegypti.
The species is the culprit for infections with dengue fever, yellow fever, or Zika. At the moment, these diseases have not surfaced in California, but they might soon become a real threat in the area. Therefore, Verily decided to prevent this, and had already released 1 million male mosquitoes.
The release took place in Fresno, so it bore the name Debug Fresno. However, the danger is not completely gone, so the company will release 1 million insects weekly for the next 20 weeks. These mosquitoes have not been genetically altered, but infected with natural bacteria, turning them sterile. Therefore, this attempt is actually an attempt at biological pest control.
The insects were infected with a bacteria which makes them sterile
Wolbachia pipientis is the bacteria in question, which represents one of the most common and widespread pathogens existent. It affects around 76 percent of insects on the planet, attacking their reproductive system. Verily hopes that, after releasing so many sterile male mosquitoes, all males which end up mating with the females will eventually be sterile.
This is not the first time when scientists are trying to curb mosquito populations by releasing sterile males into the wild. However, this is a new turn on that older experiment, and we just have to wait and see how everything goes.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons