In Fresno, Verily has planned to release around 1-million mosquitos every week, divided into a 20-week period. Verily's mosquitoes, all male, are infected with a type of bacteria (Wolbachia) that makes females' eggs unable to produce offspring.
If all goes according to plan, given short life cycles, the number of skeeters will soon plummet - and scientists will study the ecological impact. The project's target is the aedes aegypti mosquito population, as it is the species of mosquito responsible for spreading diseases such as dengue fever, Zika virus, and chikungunya. It's certainly worth a swat.
Aedes aegypti are invasive and first appeared in the central valley region of California in 2013. And, as a bonus, these male mosquitoes in question don't actually bite (likely a huge source of relief for Fresno-area residents who are about to be inundated with the new mosquito pool).
Verily's mosquitoes aren't genetically modified.More news: If you wear disposable contact lenses - you should take heed of this
Verily isn't the first to use Wolbachia mosquitoes for disease control. Verily's contribution has been to create machines that automatically rear, count, and sort the mosquitoes by sex, making it possible to create vast quantities for large-scale projects. Organisations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have been working on the bugs for more than a decade, running pilot projects in countries including Indonesia and Brazil.
The release of the treated male insects in Fresno is the largest such field trial in the U.S.to date.
"This study will be the largest US release to-date of sterile male mosquitoes treated with Wolbachia, a naturally occurring bacterium, and will take place over a 20 week period in two neighborhoods each approximately 300 acres in size", wrote Verily in a blog post. The company's bug-releasing van will start traveling the streets of Fancher Creek, a neighborhood in Fresno County, on Friday.