The female Aedes aegypti mosquito, along with its two sisters, the Culex and the Anopheles, are infamous for causing some of the deadliest diseases on the planet ranging from Zika, to Malaria, Encephalitis, Yellow Fever, and what has now become somewhat of an epidemic in Bangladesh – Chikungunya.
These mosquitos don’t need human blood for sustenance, but instead, for the nutrients to make their eggs. So for years, scientists have been experimenting on way to stop their deadly progression, by interrupting virus replication, making them sterile or by damaging their offspring thus causing them to become extinct.
Along these same lines, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District has adopted a new approach in trying to control the dangerous disease-carrying female Aedes aegypti mosquito, known for transmitting the Zika virus, Chikungunya, and Dengue fever.
In a 12-week test running through early July, 40,000 male mosquitoes infected with the Wolbachia bacteria have been released in the Florida Keys, in an attempt to curb the proliferation of the female Aedes aegypti mosquito. These released mosquitos do not bite but are free to mate with the females in the region.
The Wolbachia is a naturally occurring bacteria found in various ants, butterflies and many other arthropods, but not in mosquitos. Once infected into the male mosquitos, it makes them dangerous to mate with – meaning when these males mate with uninfected wild females, their offspring die before hatching.
This is one of the two techniques of mosquito control that center around the Wolbachia bacteria. The better-known task is to render mosquitoes less able to carry disease but leave them free to do what mosquitoes do. The approach now being tried in Florida would instead try to stomp down their numbers.
The technique was first tested in Cairn, Australia. The same company has also tested the methods in California with additional field trials currently underway in Indonesia, Vietnam, Colombia, and Brazil.