Published: Mon, July 17, 2017
Health | By Jay Jacobs

Why Google's Verily Is Unleashing 20 Million Bacteria-Infected Mosquitoes in Fresno

Why Google's Verily Is Unleashing 20 Million Bacteria-Infected Mosquitoes in Fresno

The project's target is the aedes aegypti mosquito population, as it is the species of mosquito responsible for spreading diseases such as dengue fever, Zika virus, and chikungunya. It uses them to produce infertile male insects treated with naturally occurring Wolbachia bacteria, and has used its custom-built machines and algorithms to increase its production of mosquitos.

Verily, Alphabet's life biotech division formerly known as Google Life Sciences, said last week that the Debug Project, an initiative to reduce the volume of disease-carrying mosquitos worldwide, is now ready for a test in the field.

A giant technology company is releasing up to 20 million bacteria-filled, buzzing mosquitoes this summer in Fresno, California.

An automated mosquito mass rearing process has been developed at Verily. First arriving in Fresno in 2013.

A drug used to treat malaria can prevent the transmission of Zika from mother to fetus in mice
A drug used to treat malaria can prevent the transmission of Zika from mother to fetus in mice

Mosquitoes are infected with a natural bacteria called Wolbachia they aren't genetically modified. And, as a bonus, these male mosquitoes in question don't actually bite (likely a huge source of relief for Fresno-area residents who are about to be inundated with the new mosquito pool).

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. The Fresno project will be the biggest USA release of sterile mosquitoes to date, Verily says. The study would be conducted by Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District, MosquitoMate, and Verily, and this video is meant to inform residents of the possible activities of this study.

Biologists planning to release over a 20-week period 1 million mosquitoes a week across two 300-acre neighborhoods.

Those in the Fancher Creek neighborhood may notice a Verily van releasing healthy swarms of the little bugs throughout its streets starting today.

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