Yahoo!7 News recently reported that that the project trial had begun in Fresno, California with the release of 20 million bacteria-infected mosquitoes. The bugs were raised by a robot, which produces a million mosquitoes weekly. In order to combat disease carrying mosquitoes, the bugs are raised to carry the Wolbachia bacterium, which affects their reproductive process. To avoid the bugs targeting humans, only male mosquitoes were bred.
The project is aimed at the most widespread mosquito species, Aedes aegypti. This species is considered “an aggressive invasive species that can transmit nasty diseases like dengue, Zika, and chikungunya.”
The results of the Debug Fresno project are yet to be seen, but according to reports by 9news, parts of North Queensland are now considered ‘Zika-proof’ due to the same trial (Eliminate Dengue program) being implemented in 2011. Due to the success of the Eliminate Dengue program, the same program will be introduced in neighbouring countries, like Indonesia and Vietnam, as well as in Sri Lanka.
In the United States during 2016, there were 2,048 reported cases of West Nile Virus; 5 reported cases of Easter equine encephalitis (EEE); and 35,237 reported cases of the locally acquired Zika virus (across both US states and territories). Surprisingly, these figures are lower in comparison to mosquito-borne disease cases in Australia. From the 2016 Government Health report, there were a reported 1,471 notified cases of Barmah Forest virus; 5,147 notified cases of Ross River virus; and 1,201 notified cases of Dengue virus infection.
Although, the fatality rate of mosquito borne diseases is not extremely high in Australia or the United States, mosquitoes are considered the world’s most deadly animal. According to the World Health Organisation, mosquito bites result in 1 million deaths per year and 20 million cases of infections across 100 countries.