Plugging the Source

Most attacks against Zika focus on creating vaccines to protect against the virus. But what about attacking the other end of the chain, the source of the virus: The mosquitoes? Apparently, that’s just what we are doing. Scientists are making lab grown mosquitoes and then releasing them into the wild.

Two million a week.

That’s what scientists in China and other countries are doing to to control (and maybe even eradicate) the pesky parasites. They release male mosquitoes that create eggs that will not hatch.

 

Apparently, the bacteria Wolbachia, when injected into mosquito eggs, ensure that mature males released into the wild will infect females, which lay eggs that do not hatch. Their target is the Aedes albopictus, the world’s most invasive mosquito. It is responsible for spreading Zika, Dengue, and yellow fever around the world.

The scientists from Vector Control for Tropical Disease in Guangzhou, China have been releasing the mosquitoes on nearby islands for four years, and have seen as much as 99 percent suppression rates.

How Its Made

To make the mosquitoes, first, the bacteria is injected into the eggs. Once the infected eggs hatch, the males are separated from the larger females by lab workers. The females are destroyed and the males allowed to grow into pupae. After two weeks, they move the pupae to cages, where they grow fat on animal blood.

Once mature, the mosquitoes travel in sealed buckets to Shazai and Dadao Islands—and take to the air.

Other teams from around the world are actually mimicking the tactic, making mosquitoes that will eventually thin their population. Researchers in Kentucky and Australia are doing similar work. It is actually an ecologically friendly solution that isn’t as controversial as genetically modified mosquitoes. 


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