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The reasoning and science behind Fresno’s bacteria-infected mosquito release program




A Biologist releases genetically modified mosquitoes in the city on February 11, 2016 in Piracicaba, Brazil.
A Biologist releases genetically modified mosquitoes in the city on February 11, 2016 in Piracicaba, Brazil.
Victor Moriyama/Getty Images

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Last Friday, July 14, the life science branch of Google’s parent company Verily launched its “Debug Fresno” plan, which aims to eliminate the Aedes aegypti mosquito by releasing 1 million bacteria-infected male mosquitoes into the County, over the course of 20 weeks.

More commonly known as the yellow fever mosquito, and known to spread diseases such as Zika and dengue, this mosquito arrived in Fresno in 2013. The plan to fight this dangerous mosquito is to release Wolbachia bacteria-infected mosquitoes into the population, which are sterile to female mosquitoes that don’t have the naturally occurring infection.

The technology for this was developed by the University of Kentucky and commercialized by Mosquito Mate, which released a smaller batch of these infected mosquito in Fresno last summer. Now the Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District, the government agency that provides mosquito control in portions of Fresno, has partnered with Verily for this 20-week release plan.

What’s the technology and science behind this bacteria-infected mosquito and the release plan? What can we expect over the course of these 20 weeks? What are the larger implications of this experiment?

Guests:

Steve Mulligan, district manager of the Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District

Stephen Dobson, professor of medical and veterinary entomology at the University of Kentucky; president of Mosquito Mate, the company that is commercializing the pesticide technology used in the Fresno release