Release of 20 million mosquitoes aims to curb mosquito population

'Mosquito factory' churns out sterile males produced without genetic modification to fight Zika

Also known as yellow fever mosquitoes, they first arrived in the area in 2013 and are known to spread the Zika virus, dengue, and chikungunya (although none of these viruses are now spreading in Fresno).

California scientists will release 20 million mosquitoes in an effort to reduce the population of disease-carrying mosquitoes, NPR reported. Since 2013, the species has been prevalent in California's Central Valley, and has become a problem particularly in Fresno County. And they don't bite just because they're hungry, but because the blood is needed to successfully grow and hatch eggs. While the mosquito project, called Debug, will not generate revenue in the near-term, it's a chance for Verily to show off its technical prowess in the health-care field.

The team at Verily piloted the first U.S. release of male mosquitoes with Wolbachia into the Fresno area in 2016. "It's changed the way people can enjoy their back yard and it's a threat for disease transmission", Steve Mulligan of Fresno County's Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District told The Washington Post. Although active Zika virus transmission has been detected in some areas of the United States, most cases of Zika virus have been travel-associated. Vectors that can transmit Zika virus are or have been previously found in USA territories and some US states.

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Verily - formerly Google Life Sciences - began releasing bacteria-infected male mosquitoes in Fresno, California.

The male mosquitoes are raised in machines and are infected with Wolbachia, a natural bacterium. But the infection is not typically found in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

"To measure our outcomes, we will compare the adult population density and egg hatching of aedes aegypti in these targeted areas to two control neighbourhoods", a statement from Verily said.

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