Lab-Grown "Killer Mosquitoes": Our Hope To Eradicating the Disease They Carry?

Khryss | Published 2017-11-19 07:31

Small but terrible. Although mosquitoes are tiny, they are dangerous, and rightfully so. As carriers of many diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, Chikungunya, West Nile virus, dengue fever, filariasis, Zika virus and other arboviruses, these little bugs really do pack a serious punch.

There are many efforts to help stop the spread of disease from deadly mosquitoes, such as eliminating the species as a whole or eliminating them through breeding with lab-grown mosquitoes that infect these bugs and kill them off. The latter is what biotech company MosquitoMate is currently doing-they grow killer mosquitoes to wipe them off. And recently, the United States Environmental Protection Agency or EPA has greenlit the said company to producing these in the lab.

The species of mosquito that’s going to be bred are the Asian tiger mosquitoes or Aedes albopictus. The lab-grown Asian tiger mosquitoes will carry the bacteria Wolbachia pipientis which naturally occurs in the wild and makes the insects sick. The company will only release the males since they don’t bite and will infiltrate the wild population by mating with the wild females. By doing so, the eggs also carry the infection thus killing them before they even hatch, says the website Nature.

"First we're going to prove our business model here in Lexington, Kentucky, but we have approval in 20 states," the production manager at MosquitoMate, Karen Dobson told Motherboard. The EPA gave MosquitoMate permission to start trials but will be releasing the mosquitoes in spring 2018, Dobson says. The company can now sell the mosquitoes in various states in the US and its capital, D.C. but still has to register with all 20 states before the mosquitos can be released.

But even just temporarily dropping the mosquito population can reduce the spread of diseases greatly. They just have to prove to the public that this technology can truly save lives.

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