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Stat, the medical/biotech specialty publication of the Boston Globe, has a good long piece about efforts to entirely eliminate mosquitoes from a small Pacific island via the release of sterile males infected with a natural bacteria that interferes with the bugs’ ability to spread disease. It’s worth a read.

He’s taking a two-pronged approach: In one, he wants to prevent mosquitoes from spreading disease in populated areas, and in the other, intended for resorts, he aims to get rid of mosquitoes entirely.

A bacterium called Wolbachia is his weapon of choice for both. Wolbachia live inside many insect species, including numerous mosquitoes. Infect the Aedes aegypti mosquito with Wolbachia, and the mosquito responsible for spreading dengue, chikungunya, West Nile and other viruses can no longer pass these diseases on to people, a handful of scientific teams around the world have shown.

When a Wolbachia-infested male inseminates an uninfected female, she will never be able to lay viable eggs. But when infested females mate — regardless of the status of the male — their offspring inherit the Wolbachia. This means that over just a few generations, all the mosquitoes in a population will be infested — and apparently unable to spread disease.

Simmons anticipates it will cost under $1 per person to release enough infested females to block mosquitoes from passing on dengue.


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