(Photo: Beth Ranson/AP)
Twenty-thousand bacteria carrying male mosquitoes were released in the Florida Keys earlier this week to counter the Zika virus, logic being that the increase in males will control the disease-carrying female Aedes aegypti mosquito. The release is the beginning of a twelve-week trial with non-biting mosquitoes that have been manually infected with Wolbachia, a bacteria found in the cells of many insects but not mosquitoes. When the infected male mosquitoes mate with females, the eggs she produces will not hatch, which hopefully will reduce the population of female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.
The mosquitoes will be released twice a week as part of this trial, but Florida is not the first place to try this technique. In 2011, a suburb of Cairns, Australia released the first Wolbachia-infected and had success in replacing disease-carrying mosquitoes with healthy ones.
According to the executive director for the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District Andrea Leal, “A successful trial with the Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes could mean the availability of a new tool in the fight against the Aedes aegypti mosquito for not only our
district, but for Mosquito Control Districts around the country.”
Florida is also investing in a trial with a British company called Oxitec. This trial involves OX513A, a male Aedes aegypti mosquito that is genetically modified to pass a lethal gene to females causing death to their offspring.
Alanna Shingler Staff Reporter