Company plans to release 'lab-grown' mosquitoes to infect others with disease

Asian tiger mosquito

The mosquitoes are engineered by the company MosquitoMate so that they deliver the bacterium to wild mosquitoes when released, killing off insects that could transmit viruses such as dengue, yellow fever and Zika. The company will rear the infected mosquitoes in its Kentucky lab, sorting non-biting males from females. MosquitoMate has had far less controversy over their natural approach to using ZAPs to combat disease-carrying mosquitoes.

'By acting proactively, your population of Asian Tiger mosquitoes will not reach a nuisance level'. According to a report by Nature.com, the EPA chose the 20 states because they are most similar to the places where ZAP Males were tested: Kentucky, New York and California. MosquitoMate CEO Stephen Dobson told Gizmodo they will begin releasing the ZAP mosquitoes in Lexington next summer, gradually expanding to other metropolitan areas like Nashville and Louisville. The fertilized eggs never hatch because the paternal chromosomes do not properly form, according to Nature.

By releasing sterile, bacteria-infected male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to mate with females, MosquitoMate and its local partners were able to cut the number female bugs - the ones that bite you - by about 68 percent at the peak of the 2017 mosquito season.

The infected mosquitoes won't affect other insects and the Wolbachia bacteria can not be transmitted to humans, pets, or other warm-blooded animals. "Evidence that rapidly spreading populations of Aedes albopictus may be much more competent at transmitting infections than previously thought could test those defenses and will require public health officials to stay focused on mosquito control and clinicians focused on tracking patients for signs of infection". Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are thought to be the primary vector for the virus. A community in the Florida Keys voted a year ago against allowing Oxitec to conduct field trials there, although the rest of the county in which it's located voted in favour of those plans.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced this week that it registered a mosquito biopesticide called "ZAP Males", made by MosquitoMate Inc., which is meant to deplete specific mosquito populations. However, MosquitoMate successfully did trials in the Florida Keys and Fresno, California, attracting very little attention.

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