Mosquitoes infected with bacteria to make them infertile released in battle against viruses

When the released males mate with wild female mosquitoes, the resulting eggs will not hatch 

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Wednesday 31 January 2018 22:40
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An aedes aegypti mosquito is pictured on a leaf. The species is known to spread Zika, dengue, and yellow fever.
An aedes aegypti mosquito is pictured on a leaf. The species is known to spread Zika, dengue, and yellow fever.

In order to fight Zika and other similar viruses, researchers are going to release thousands of sterilised mosquitoes in south Miami, Florida this week.

Researchers infected the male of the species with a bacteria in a lab and when they mate with females, the resulting eggs will die before hatching.

The Miami-Dade County Mosquito Reduction Test Program is a collaboration from the University of Kentucky and Kentucky-based company MosquitoMate.

The project is an attempt to reduce mosquito populations in the region without artificial genetic modification.

The bacteria used to infect the males, wolbachia, is a naturally-occurring substance in 60 per cent of insects including butterflies and dragonflies.

It is not harmful to humans.

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It has a sterilisation effect and researchers are using it on the Aedes aegypti species of mosquito, which is the type most associated with the spread of Zika, dengue, and yellow fever.

Called cytoplasmic incompatibility, if a male mosquito that has been infected with wolbachia mates with a female that does not, the eggs laid by that female will die and subsequent populations of mosquitoes will decrease.

The company will only release males of the species because only females bite, blood feed, and can spread disease.

A trial had begun in Key West, Florida, but was interrupted by Hurricane Irma.

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