Killer lab grown insects may come to NY, NJ to target mosquitoes

Image Getty

Image Getty

Killer mosquitoes are coming-mosquitoes that help kill other mosquitoes, that is.

The lab-grown mosquitoes are the Aedes albopictus species, also known as Asian Tiger Mosquitoes, the same species that carries viruses risky to humans.

Zap males will be engineered in a Kentucky lab. MosquitoMate will be contracted by government bodies and sell the bugs direct to home owners via a subcription service, Gizmodo reports.

Kentucky-based MosquitoMate will infect the males, which don't bite people, with Wolbachia pipientis bacterium - which doesn't affects mosquitoes but not animals or humans. The US Environmental Protection Agency has just approved the use of the startup's mosquitoes as biopesticide against their Zika-, dengue- and other disease-carrying counterparts in 20 states and Washington DC.

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Not only are mosquitoes annoying, but they can transmit a whole host of risky viruses.

The biggest hurdles are breeding the millions of bugs needed to make a dent in native populations, as well as separating the harmless-to-humans males from the blood-sucking females inside the lab, which workers now do mainly by hand.

Mosquitoes carrying the bacterium were previously released by the Eliminate Dengue Program in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Medellín, Colombia, in October of a year ago.

The target for elimination: Aedes albopictus. Targeting the mosquito population of an entire city would require the weekly production of millions of the special mosquitoes. Either MosquitoMate will be putting out many jobs ads for "mosquito sorter" or have to automate the process. They are using mechanical sorters to separate the females and males, at 99% efficiency. Trials showed a greater than 80 percent reduction of the biting mosquito populations. However, Florida has been hosting trials of the more-controversial genetically modified versions of the Zika vector, Aedes aegypti. So, ironically, by releasing more mosquitoes into the environment scientists will ultimately reduce the population of the disease-spreading insects.

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