Killer lab grown insects may come to NY, NJ to target mosquitoes

Kentucky-based MosquitoMate was granted the right to sell these mosquitoes, called ZAP Males, for the next five years, the agency announced November 7.

The Environmental Protection Agency last week approved a plan to use mosquitoes infected with bacteria to kill others in the wild, Nature reports.

Asian Tiger mosquitoes, which the Zap males are created to target, can be carriers of risky diseases, such Zika. The idea is that the males will mate with female Asian tiger mosquitoes in the wild, resulting in eggs that won't hatch.

Not only are mosquitoes annoying, but they can transmit a whole host of unsafe viruses.

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"First we're going to prove our business model here in Lexington, Kentucky, but we have approval in 20 states", Karen Dobson, the production manager at MosquitoMate, told Motherboard over the phone.

Only males will be released outside of the lab because they do not bite. Trials have already been conducted in California and NY, which "demonstrated a greater than 80% reduction of the biting mosquito populations", according to MosquitoMate. Then the males are released into nature, where transmitted bacteria women.

The target for elimination: Aedes albopictus. Either MosquitoMate will be putting out many jobs ads for "mosquito sorter" or have to automate the process. MosquitoMate specifically breeds lab-grown tiger mosquitoes to carry a common parasitic microbe, the Wolbachia pipientis bacterium, which infects mosquitoes but not other animals or humans. Remaining females are exposed to X-Ray radiation for sterilisation. Trials showed a greater than 80 percent reduction of the biting mosquito populations. However, Florida has been hosting trials of the more-controversial genetically modified versions of the Zika vector, Aedes aegypti. So, ironically, by releasing more mosquitoes into the environment scientists will ultimately reduce the population of the disease-spreading insects.

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