Published: Fri, November 10, 2017
Health Care | By Oscar Goodwin

EPA Approves Plan to Release Infected Mosquitoes to Stop Zika

EPA Approves Plan to Release Infected Mosquitoes to Stop Zika

Now golf courses, hotels and homeowners in 20 states and Washington, D.C. will be able to release the Zap Males on their property purchased from MosquitoMate, the Kentucky-based company behind them.

Bacteria-infected male mosquitoes created to target disease-carrying mosquito populations may come to NY and New Jersey.

The idea is that infected males will mate with females, and the Wolbachia strain will prevent the offspring from surviving. "I'm glad to see it pushed forward, as I think it could be potentially really important".

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MosquitoMate, a biotech company based in Kentucky, is developing mosquito assassins in what it calls the Adam project. From there it hopes to expand to cities like Louisville.

Mosquitoes live an average of 30 to 40 days, so significant decreases in the mosquito population were seen in company trials in Kentucky, California and NY, which have resulted in an 80% reduction in the biting mosquito population.

The states where MosquitoMate will release the infected mosquitoes are majority areas where the threat of these diseases could be felt. "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". Researchers from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China and Michigan State University in East Lansing say they are releasing five million Wolbachia-infected A. albopictus each week in Guangzhou, China. Remaining females are exposed to X-Ray radiation for sterilisation.

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In 2016, scientists in Brazil tested lab-grown mosquitoes in the Cayman Islands, Panama and Brazil with great success.

The solution to fighting mosquito-borne diseases could very well be other mosquitoes. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are thought to be the primary vector for the virus. They wanted to release genetically engineered sterile mosquitoes into the Florida Keys to combat Zika-carrying mosquitoes. "MosquitoMate has also performed field trials using similar technology targeting the Yellow Fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, in California and Florida". The company plans to submit an application to the EPA for nationwide release of that species, says Dobson.

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