Google Is Releasing 20 Million Bacteria-Infected Mosquitoes in Fresno

Pauline Gross
July 17, 2017

Giant Technology company will release up to 20 million bacteria-filled, buzzing mosquitoes this summer in Fresno, California an attempt to fight disease.

If all goes according to plan, given short life cycles, the number of skeeters will soon plummet - and scientists will study the ecological impact.

The skeeters in question are male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which carry pathogens that cause illnesses like Zika, dengue, and chikungunya.

Verily's automated approach is hoping to help lower the costs for communities wanting to control mosquitoes.

A health worker sprays insecticide inside the home of a woman diagnosed with the Zika virus in Acacias Colombia
Fernando VergaraA health worker sprays insecticide inside the home of a woman diagnosed with the Zika virus in Acacias Colombia

Male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia were first released into the country in 2016 due to the efforts of CMAD and MosquitoMate, but Verily says with the addition of new robots, automaton, and software algorithms, the breeding of male mosquitos has been increased in volume by 25 times, more than the company was able to produce before.

Aedes aegypti are invasive and first appeared in the central valley region of California in 2013. And these bugs have been treated with a specific kind of bacteria, Wolbachia, that makes them sterile. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has also been conducting their own research in bacteria-infected mosquitoes.

With the help of scientists, engineers, and Verily's worldwide partners, the Debug Project aims to propagate bacteria-infected mosquitoes in hopes of eventually minimizing, if not completely eradicating, the population of disease-carrying mosquitoes. Verily's contribution has been to create machines that automatically rear, count, and sort the mosquitoes by sex, making it possible to create vast quantities for large-scale projects.

Verily is planning to release 1 million mosquitoes a week over a 20-week period across two 300-acre neighbourhoods. The Fresno project will be the biggest USA release of sterile mosquitoes to date, Verily says. The study would be conducted by Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District, MosquitoMate, and Verily, and this video is meant to inform residents of the possible activities of this study.

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