Google’s alphabet has a plan to eradicate mosquitoes, and it appears to be working

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Fighting mosquito-borne diseases is one of Alphabet Unit Verily’s most ambitious public health projects. According to an article published Monday in Nature Biotechnology, the effort seems to be paying off.

Verily, coronavirus triage and testing are also being done in parts of California. Bradley White, the chief scientist of the Debug Initiative, said mosquito suppression was even more important during the pandemic so that outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever don’t continue to overwhelm hospitals.

Since 2017, the company has released millions of laboratory-bred male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in multiple areas of Fresno County during mosquito season. The insects are raised in Verily laboratories to be infected with a common bacterium called Wolbachia. When these male mosquitoes mate with wild females, the offspring never hatch.

In the study results published Monday, Verily showed that Wolbachia-infected men successfully suppressed more than 93% of the female mosquito population at field test sites during the peak of the 2018 mosquito season from July to October. Only female mosquitoes usually bite.

Working with the local mosquito control district and MosquitoMate, which originally developed the mosquitoes, Verily released up to 80,000 mosquitoes per day in three neighborhoods from April 2018 to October 2018. In most of the collections, Verily found one or zero female mosquito traps per night to monitor the population. At other locations without the laboratory-bred beetles, there were up to 16 women per trap.

“We had a vision of what this was going to look like, and we did it pretty perfectly,” said Jacob Crawford, a senior scientist on the Debug Project.

In the arid climate of the Central Valley, disease is an unlikely result of a mosquito bite. In the hot, humid regions of the tropics and subtropics, diseases caused by the Aedes aegypti such as dengue fever, Zika virus and chikungunya kill tens of thousands of people each year. The release of masses of Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes into the wild could wipe out entire populations of deadly mosquitoes and the diseases they carry.

Truly, it is not the only organization working to end the mosquito-borne disease. Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates has pledged more than $ 1 billion to eradicate malaria, including controversial efforts to genetically modify mosquitoes. Infecting mosquitoes with Wolbachia, which is naturally found in some species of mosquitoes, is a popular approach that relies on an ancient insect control strategy known as the sterile insect technique.

What Verily’s efforts offer is not only evidence that Wolbachia can help eradicate disease-causing mosquitoes, but also possible ways to make such efforts work on a large scale. Last year, Verily released approximately 14.4 million mosquitoes in Fresno County.

Initial small-scale Fresno trials in 2016, conducted by an upstart named MosquitoMate, marked the first time male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes infected with the bacteria were ever released in the U.S. release process, which included it could enable such efforts to be extended to entire cities or regions.

Many of these technologies are described in detail in the new document, e.g. B. An automated process for separating male and female mosquitoes in the laboratory, as well as software that can be used to precisely determine where altered male mosquitoes should be released for maximum effectiveness.

“Once you try to breed hundreds of thousands of mosquitoes a week, you run into all kinds of problems,” White said. “Mosquitoes are everywhere, but they are very fussy and difficult to breed.”

Verily has expanded its partnerships to include the Singapore National Environment Agency. The trials there have entered a fourth phase in which 121 urban apartment blocks and around 45,000 residents are recorded. Truly he is seeking partnerships in South America and is in talks to get started in the Caribbean.

Crawford hopes the program will cover entire regions within a few years. Without intervention, the number of mosquito-borne diseases in public health will only increase.

“This is something that won’t go away on its own,” he said.

This story was published by a wire agency feed with no changes to the text. Only the heading was changed.

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