Monday, 20 November, 2017

U.S. approves lab-grown insects to kill mosquitoes

Melissa Porter | 09 November, 2017, 02:47

The US Environmental Protection Agency has approved the plan.

The mosquitoes are licensed to sell in 20 states, including New York, New Jersey, and CT, and Washington, D.C., for five years, but they must also be registered in those jurisdictions before they can be used. The lab-grown mosquito OX513A tested there is a male Aedes aegypti mosquito that was genetically engineered to pass on a lethal gene, synthesized from E. coli and the herpes simplex virus, to wild female mosquitoes, causing the females' offspring to die.

Mosquito-spread diseases such as yellow fever, dengue and the zika virus will soon be fought in the United States... by mosquitoes.

Male mosquitoes don't bite, so when these specially grown ZAP insects, infected with the bacteria Wolbachia pipientis, mate with wild female mosquitoes, the resulting eggs won't hatch.

A biotech startup has just gotten approval from the FDA to unleash a new weapon against potentially risky mosquitoes. As the number of released males increases, then the total population eventually declines.

The company will have to produce millions of its mosquitoes in order to suppress an entire city's mosquito population, Nature reported. MosquitoMate has titled its killer bugs "Zap males". Either MosquitoMate will be putting out many jobs ads for "mosquito sorter" or have to automate the process.

Releases of Wolbachia-bearing mosquitoes for pest control already go on in other countries, such as Brazil, although with a different bacterial strain and a different strategy. They are using mechanical sorters to separate the females and males, at 99% efficiency.

For now, the southeastern U.S., which has the densest mosquito populations is excluded from the trials as testing was not conducted under those climates. So, ironically, by releasing more mosquitoes into the environment scientists will ultimately reduce the population of the disease-spreading insects.