Why the sex life of the male mosquito matters
| Australian experiment wipes out over 80% of disease-carrying mosquitoes
(CNN) In an experiment with global implications, Australian scientists have successfully wiped out more than 80% of disease-carrying mosquitoes in trial locations across north Queensland.
The experiment, conducted by scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and James Cook University (JCU), targeted Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which spread deadly diseases such as dengue fever and Zika.
In JCU laboratories, researchers bred almost 20 million mosquitoes, infecting males with bacteria that made them sterile. Then, last summer, they released over three million of them in three towns on the Cassowary Coast.
The sterile male mosquitoes didn’t bite or spread disease, but when they mated with wild females, the resulting eggs didn’t hatch, and the population crashed.
“Although the majority of mosquitoes don’t spread diseases, the three most 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.”
The successful experiment offers a potential new solution for diseases which infect millions every year.
Many mosquito-spread diseases are difficult to treat. Some don’t have effective vaccines, pesticides can be unsustainable, and methods such as clearing standing water are inefficient against mosquito breeding rates.
The Zika virus is an infamous example. Its explosive outbreak in 2015 infected millions worldwide, causing babies to be born with neurological disorders. Researchers raced to develop a vaccine, and many are still conducting trials.
Although the process used in the experiment, called the Sterile Insect Technique, has been around since the 1950s, it has never been used for mosquitoes like the Aedes aegypti.
“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. Read the full story at CNN.