Medicine

Company plans to release 'lab-grown' mosquitoes to infect others with disease

Company plans to release 'lab-grown' mosquitoes to infect others with disease

Asian Tiger mosquitoes, which the Zap males are created to target, can be carriers of unsafe diseases, such Zika.

After extensive testing in Kentucky, New York and California, the EPA has given MosquitoMate permission to release these infected mosquitoes in 20 states across the country and Washington D.C. These states were chosen because they're "similar in temperature and precipitation" to the three states where the tests were carried out.

On their website, MosquitoMate writes, "MosquitoMate is responsible mosquito control that doesn't utilize genetic engineering".

The infected mosquitoes won't affect other insects and the Wolbachia bacteria can not be transmitted to humans, pets, or other warm-blooded animals.

When the male mosquitoes released by MosquitoMate mate with female mosquitoes, the eggs don't hatch due to the effects of the bacteria - cutting the population.

The hope is that wild, disease-carrying mosquito populations will eventually die out.

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"First we're going to prove our business model here in Lexington, Kentucky, but we have approval in 20 states", Karen Dobson, MosquitoMate production manager, told Motherboard.

The US has been considering using lab-grown mosquitoes to reduce the the spread of mosquito-borne diseases for several years. The Zap male mosquitoes will not target female mosquitoes of other species. A similar project in Florida was approved by the federal government a year ago, but local voters rejected the trial because of potential effects it could have on the local environment.

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.

Killer mosquitoes are coming-mosquitoes that help kill other mosquitoes, that is.

In 2016, scientists in Brazil tested lab-grown mosquitoes in the Cayman Islands, Panama and Brazil with great success.

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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