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Company plans to release 'lab-grown' mosquitoes to infect others with disease
09 November 2017, 02:49 | Melissa Porter
The US Environmental Protection Agency has approved the plan.
The company could start selling its infected mosquitoes this summer via government contracts, or direct to consumers, Gizmodo reported.
The biggest hurdles are breeding the millions of bugs needed to make a dent in native populations, as well as separating the harmless-to-humans males from the blood-sucking females inside the lab, which workers now do mainly by hand.
MosquitoMate is seeking EPA permission to expand their program to all 50 states, and is also testing the same technique on a different species of mosquito, Aedes aegypti, in the Florida Keys. The hope is the males mate with female Asian tiger mosquitoes, which do bite humans, and are carriers of unsafe viral diseases, such as yellow fever and Zika. Only the males, called ZAP males by the company, will be released because they don't bite so you don't have to worry. The eggs produced from the infected male and wild female mosquitoes will also be infected and won't hatch because the paternal chromosomes are infected with Wolbachia. Then the males are released into nature, where transmitted bacteria women. Image credits: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Public Health Image Library. Targeting the mosquito population of an entire city would require the weekly production of millions of the special mosquitoes.
Brazil, which struggled with a Zika health crisis that reportedly ended earlier this year, helped reduce the threat using similarly genetically modified mosquitoes in addition to fumigation. Either MosquitoMate will be putting out many jobs ads for "mosquito sorter" or have to automate the process.
The lab-grown mozzies will be deliberately infected with the bacterium Wolbachia pipientis, which affects the insects (but not animals or humans). Remaining females are exposed to X-Ray radiation for sterilisation.
It sounds like a classic "mad scientist" plot, the sort that usually goes badly wrong - releasing diseased "lab grown" mosquitoes to kill off wild ones.
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