Verily, the life science unit from Alphabet, Google’s parent company, announced the official launch of Debug Fresno, the first stage in its Debug Project. This is a company initiative whose purpose is to reduce the “devastating global health impact” of disease-carrying mosquitoes.
On July 14, Verily launched its first large-scale field study in the United States, which will be conducted in Fresno. It is being carried out in collaboration with the Fresno County Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District (CMAD) and with MosquitoMate.
They will be testing a new and potential mosquito control method, which will involve 20 million mosquitoes. All of them sterile, these will be used to try and reduce the Aedes aegypti numbers.
Additional 20 Million Mosquitoes to Help Reduce Mosquito Numbers
The release of even more mosquitos in the wild may seem like a counterintuitive move. However, as Verily explains in a blog post, these will not be regular buzzers.
Debug Fresno set its eye on reducing the number of wild Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. This disease carrying species is perhaps best known for spreading the Zika virus as well as dengue, and also others.
Since its appearance back in 2013 in the central valley of California, A. aegypti is considered to have become pervasive in Fresno County.
Now, the new field test will be currently largest of its type carried out in the United States. It will be releasing in the wild 20 million mosquitoes, all of them sterile male specimens. These were treated with a naturally occurring bacterium called Wolbachia.
The sterilized mosquitos will be released in two neighborhoods, each some 300 acres in size, over the course of 20 weeks. One million specimens are set to be released on a weekly basis.
As the wild female specimens breed with the sterile males, the resulting eggs should not hatch. If they do, the resulting specimens should die very early on.
The outcomes of Debug Fresno will be measured by comparing the egg hatching with the adult population density in the respective neighborhoods. In its blog, Verily stated that:
“Over time, we hope to see a steep decline in the presence of Aedes aegypti in these communities.”
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