Over the next 20 weeks, 20 million mosquitoes will be released in Fresno, California, in order to fight mosquito-borne diseases, including Zika.
The plan, which launched Friday, is part of the Debug Project, an initiative under Alphabet Inc.-owned Verily Life Sciences “to reduce the devastating global health impact that disease-carrying mosquitoes inflict on people around the world,” the company said in a blog post.
Debug Fresno, which specifically targets the disease-transmitting Aedes aegypti mosquito that has become widespread in the California city, will take place over a 20-week period in two Fresno neighborhoods, each about 300 acres in size.
A group of scientists and engineers developed technology to raise and release the first batch of sterile male mosquitoes, each treated with the bacterium Wolbachia.
According to Verily, Wolbachia blocks the replication of mosquito-borne viruses such as Zika, dengue and chikungunya, ultimately stopping the spread of disease to humans.
The bacterium is incapable of passing through a mosquito’s saliva and is not known to be dangerous to humans, Tech Times reported.
Here’s what happens after Verily releases its mosquitoes into the wild: The Wolbachia-treated male mosquitoes will mate with wild females, but the eggs will not hatch.
Researchers will be monitoring the adult population and egg hatching patterns of the Aedes aegypti in the two Fresno neighborhoods and will compare the results to two control neighborhoods in the area.
Debug Fresno is conducted in collaboration with MosquitoMate and Fresno County’s Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District (CMAD).