Verily has begun releasing millions of sterile male mosquitoes into the wild as a method to reduce overall mosquito populations and help eventually eradicate diseases spread by the small annoying bug.
Verily is Alphabet’s life biotech division and was formerly known as Google Life Sciences. Verily announced late last week that their Debug project was ready for a field test. Debug is the initiative to reduce the amount of disease-carrying mosquitoes around the world and is taking place in the California county of Fresno.
Debug Fresno is working with MosquitoMate and Fresno County’s Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District to target the invasive Aedes aegypti species of mosquito, most know to carry Zika virus and dengue.
To tackle this issue, Verily will release one million mosquitoes every week for 20 weeks. The mosquitoes are male, sterile and infected with Wolbachia, a bacteria that will prevent the eggs produced by the released males and natural females from hatching and developing.
Tests like this have been run before, but with new algorithms, technology and automation Verily can up the production of these sterile mosquitoes by 25 times.
Verily determined automated sex-sorting and mass rearing processes along with careful research into timed and location specific areas to target. This all comes during typical mosquito mating season.
If you’re worried about an influx of mosquitoes ruining your hike, walk easy knowing males do not bite or transmit diseases to humans. Mosquitoes are the deadliest creature on earth, responsible for over one million deaths a year.
Engineers at Verily have discussed plans to bring the mosquito releases to other countries soon, with Australia being a main target.