Bacteria-infected mosquitoes are coming to Fresno - but it's a good thing!

Automated larval rearing system at Verily

Automated larval rearing system at Verily

Verily, the life science's arm of Google's parent company Alphabet, has hatched a plan to release about 20 million lab-made, bacteria-infected mosquitoes upon Fresno, California - and that's a good thing!

Mosquitoes are the world's deadliest animals, mainly because they carry malaria, Zika and other diseases that devastate developing countries. Earlier this year, a woman in Fresno tested positive with Zika, through sexual contact with a partner who had been travelling.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito has been spreading in the central San Joaquin Valley since 2013 and is particularly widespread in Clovis and parts of Fresno. Verily's Debug Project is the only plausible method to get rid of the potential threat by combating Zika-carrying mosquitos.

Verily's male mosquitoes were infected with the Wolbachia bacteria, which is harmless to humans, but when they mate with and infect their female counterparts, it makes their eggs unable to produce offspring.

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But don't worry, they don't bite.

No word from the company on how much something like this will cost, but Linus Upson, an engineer on the team releasing the mosquitoes, told MIT Technology Review the company planned to do something similar in Australia next. To the tune of 20 million machine-reared, bacteria-infected mosquitoes that it's about to release into Fresno.

"This study will be the largest US release to-date of sterile male mosquitoes treated with Wolbachia, a naturally occurring bacterium, and will take place over a 20 week period in two neighborhoods each approximately 300 acres in size", wrote Verily in a blog post. Residents in Fancher Creek neighbourhood in Fresno may spot a Verily van releasing swarms of mosquitos around its streets, starting today.

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