EPA Approves Plan to Release Infected Mosquitoes to Stop Zika

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A bio-tech start-up got the OK from the feds last Friday to release lab-grown skeeters in 20 states - including NY - an army of weaponized insects whose mission is to target wild, disease carrying mosquito populations, the journal Nature reported. The weapon? Mosquitoes. As Gizmodo explains, a company out of Kentucky called MosquitoMate will sell male mosquitoes infected with a bacterium to businesses and homeowners in 20 states still to be named, along with DC. When the bacteria-carrying males mate with wild females, their eggs don't hatch, because Wolbachia prevents the paternal chromosome from forming properly.

The company's lab-grown Aedes albopictus (aka ZAP males) are created to halt the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.

The infected mosquitoes won't affect other insects and the Wolbachia bacteria can not be transmitted to humans, pets, or other warm-blooded animals. "I'm glad to see it pushed forward, as I think it could be potentially really important".

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The Environmental Protection Agency last week approved a plan to use mosquitoes infected with bacteria to kill others in the wild, Nature reports. And since the ZAP males do not bite, these mozzies shouldn't be a problem to have around. Because Wolbachia pipientis mosquitoes lose the ability to reproduce.

The company says that over time, as more of the Wolbachia-infected males are released and breed with the wild partners, the pest population of A. albopictus mosquitoes dwindles.

According to Gizmodo, the EPA on November 3 registered MosquitoMate's mosquito as a biopesticide, with a five-year license to sell in 20 different states.

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MosquitoMate plans to begin selling its mosquitoes locally, in Lexington, and will expand from there to nearby cities such as Louisville, Kentucky, and Cincinnati, Ohio. It also attempted to use different types of lab mosquitoes, including one that has been genetically modified that has been faced with much resistance in the United States.

Individual property owners, from hotels to homeowners, would be able to purchase the ZAP bugs, but it may take a while for the company to spread across all 20 states - the company will have to produce millions of mosquitoes and they are now separating the male from the female ZAP mosquitoes by hand.

In addition, Brazil has used this method in a campaign against Zika virus.

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