Be careful when you kill mosquitoes. Maybe, that one could save someone else’s life.
The federal government approved last Friday what’s expected to be the end of a dangerous era. A new biotechnology will be implanted in male mosquitoes to diminish the spreading of many diseases carried by this animal across the United States.
Authorities expect that this tech will help health officials and all the American citizens by exterminating the eggs of the female mosquitoes. They explained that only this genre bites humans and animals.
MosquitoMate, a biotechnology startup based in Lexington, Ky, explained in a report published in the journal Nature that male mosquitoes infected with the natural bacterium Wolbachia pipientis won’t hurt any other but the mosquitoes offspring. Other insects, animals, or humans can’t be damaged by the infected male mosquitoes.
The company and authorities said that they’re targeting to decrease the number of wild Asian tiger mosquito population. This species is the most prone to carry the infectious diseases — like Zika, Dengue fever, and yellow fever.
Researchers in the report explained that they developed this technology after seeing that traditional methods of mosquito-extermination weren’t throwing good results. In fact, experts kept finding eggs in certain places where pesticides were not entirely working.
Although the Environmental Protection Agency has not formally announced anything, it already said that the federal agency would be working with MosquitoMate in hopes to diminish the seasons of mosquitoes carrying dangerous diseases that usually take place in summer.
If they indeed succeeded in spreading the insects, they’ll have first to face an arduous work. Officials said that the company expects to release millions of male mosquitoes across the country, but the workers are just starting to separate them into different groups by using their own hands.
Twenty states were approved to launch male infected mosquitoes, including New York, and Washington D.C. — starting the last one on next summer.
The trials showed good results
MosquitoMate decided to go first in areas with weathers similar to Kentucky, New York, and California — states where the company earlier conducted trials. Officials expect to continue applying the biotech for five years, but they have first to register the male mosquitoes in every jurisdiction before spreading them.
The 20 approved states are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, and West Virginia, as well as Washington, DC.
Although the southeastern United States has an excessive number of mosquitoes population, the agency did not approve anything to many parts in the areas because MosquitoMate has not made trials there yet.
The average mosquito lives between 30 and 40 days. When employees released the infected males to mate with females, they saw that the eggs wouldn’t hatch. In the end, the results showed an 80 percent of reduction in the biting, Asian tiger mosquito population.
The founder of MosquitoMate and entomologist at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Stephen Dobson, told Nature that he wants to ask the EPA to start launching infected male mosquitoes in all the states after his company came with such an excellent result in the Stock Land, Florida Keys’ trial. There, at least 20,000 male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes were released and tracked by 12 weeks.
Dobson, who’s also the CEO of the company, told Quartz that the company would start selling the male mosquitoes on next summer not only to municipal bodies but also to individual homeowners.
“It’s a non-chemical way of dealing with mosquitoes, so from that perspective, you’d think it would have a lot of appeal,” University of Maryland in Rockville entomologist, David O’Brochta, told Nature. “I’m glad to see it pushed forward, as I think it could be potentially really important.”
MosquitoMate is not the first company to perform this kind of trials in the world. Just in the last years, scientists launched millions of male mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia throughout the city of Guangzhou, in the south of China. In 2015, Brazilian authorities did the same thing in their country to fight the Zika virus, which was quickly reaching every city.
Zika was sexually transmitted in Miami
On November 3, a patient turned to be the first case suffering from Zika in Miami of this year. However, officials said that they hadn’t gotten any other report of a person with the virus. And to make it worst, the patient informed their doctors that it hasn’t traveled to other counties in a while.
The Miami Herald reported that the partner of the patient recently traveled to several countries — including Cuba, where the virus is still active. This, adding to the fact that there’s no evidence of a Zika virus outbreak in the Miami-Dade County, make scientists think that it would be the first case of Zika transmitted through sexual encounters.
“If the department identifies an area where ongoing, active transmission of Zika is taking place, we will notify the public immediately,” the Floridia Depament of Health said.
The department also recommended people to take the necessary precautions to avoid being bitten by any mosquito.