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RT – Verily, formerly Google Life Sciences, is releasing millions of infected mosquitoes into the wild to test a population control method that could help fight deadly diseases that the wild mosquitoes carry.  On Friday, Verily announced the launch of Debug Fresno, the first field study in their Debug Project to “to reduce the devastating global health impact that disease-carrying mosquitoes inflict on people around the world.”  The company says it has developed an autonomous robot that can breed 150,000 mosquitoes a week. It plans to release 1 million infected mosquitoes every week for 20 weeks over the summer in an attempt to decrease the wild mosquito population in two 300 acre neighborhoods in the Fresno area.  The mosquitoes are not genetically modified, however, they have all been infected with “Wolbachia pipientis,” a naturally occurring bacteria that is not harmful to humans, but renders the male mosquitoes essentially sterile. When the non-biting Wolbachia-carrying male mates with a wild female, none of their eggs will be able to produce offspring. Over time, the team hopes that the method will cause the mosquitoes population to drop. he test will mark the largest release of male mosquitoes treated with Wolbachia in the US. The company says they will then use automated devices to release the infected males evenly across the area.  “If we really want to be able to help people globally, we need to be able to produce a lot of mosquitoes, distribute them to where they need to be, and measure the populations at very, very low costs,” Linus Upson, a senior engineer at Verily, told the MIT Technology Review.

 

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