Google’s machine-bred mosquitoes to kill ‘the bad ones’

San Francisco: In one of the revolutionary ideas into actions, Google’s parent company Alphabet and scientists in the US have clubbed to release 20 million machine-bred mosquitoes to shrink the numbers of the disease-carrying vectors.

According to the plans, in a project called Debug Fresno, millions of sterile male mosquitoes will be released in Fresno county in California, which will then mate with wild female mosquitoes. The eggs the females lay won’t hatch, a report in the Washington Post said.

Scientists said that the goal is to cut the numbers of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes — the species responsible for spreading zika, dengue and chikungunya. The company plans to release non-biting mosquitoes for 20 weeks in two neighbourhoods in Fresno county.

The male mosquitoes are bred and infected with Wolbachia, a bacterium that is naturally found in at least 40 per cent of all insect species, the report said.
“Over time, we hope to see a steep decline in the presence of Aedes aegypti in these communities,” Verily, which is a subsidiary of Alphabet, Google’s holding company was quoted as saying.

In a phenomenon called cytoplasmic incompatibility, “matings between Wolbachia-infected males and uninfected females result in embryo lethality or low hatch rates”, William Sullivan and Scott L. O’Neill wrote in the journal Nature.
They said that the bacterium used to sterilise mosquitoes “is not known” to infect humans.