Australian scientists managed to successfully eliminate 80% of a disease-carrying mosquito species during trials that were conducted across locations in north Queensland.
“We learned a lot from collaborating on this first tropical trial and we're excited to see how this approach might be applied in other regions where Aedes aegypti poses a threat to life and health,” Kyran Staunton from James Cook University said in a statement.
The experiments were done by researchers from Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and James Cook University (JCU) and specifically targeted Aedes aegypti mosquitoes – which are responsible for spreading dangerous diseases such as dengue fever, chikungunya and Zika.
“The invasive Aedes aegypti mosquito is one of the world's most dangerous pests,” CSIRO Director of Health and Biosecurity Rob Grenfell remarked. Many mosquito-spread diseases are difficult to treat, some without effective vaccines.
For the experiment, scientists bred about 20 million mosquitoes and infected the males with the Wolbachia bacteria that made them sterile before releasing some three million across three specific towns. Life sciences company Verily, developer of a mosquito-rearing, sex-sorting and release technology, assisted with the gender isolation process.
“Although the majority of mosquitoes don't spread diseases, the three mostly deadly types – the Aedes, Anopheles and Culex – are found almost all over the world and are responsible for around (17%) of infectious disease transmissions globally,” Grenfell explained.
The sterile male mosquitoes did not bite or spread disease. Additionally, when the control subjects mated with wild female mosquitoes the eggs did not hatch, resulting in diminished population.
The project was funded by Google's parent company Alphabet.