EPA Approves Release of Mosquito-Killing Mosquitoes in 20 States


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Kentucky-based biotechnology startup MosquitoMate was given USA government approval to release bacteria-infected mosquitoes in several states.

Once field trials are complete for the Southeastern United States, where mosquitoes are also prevalent, the company hopes to spread their biotech there as well.

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The environmental agency announced in a press release on Tuesday that the company has been approved to let "ZAP male" mosquitoes into the ecosystem to mate with the standard Asian Tiger female mosquito that terrorizes humans in the summer. These mosquitoes tend to live and breed close to humans, making them particularly unsafe.

After extensive testing in Kentucky, New York and California, the EPA has given MosquitoMate permission to release these infected mosquitoes in 20 states across the country and Washington D.C. These states were chosen because they're "similar in temperature and precipitation" to the three states where the tests were carried out.

Mosquitoes, though, are too fragile to blast with rays of radiation and still be capable of mating in the wild, forcing scientists to turn to other techniques such as genetic engineering or, in this case, the Wolbachia bacterium. The fertilized eggs never hatch because the paternal chromosomes do not properly form, according to Nature.

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To combat these Asian tiger mosquitoes, MosquitoMate's plan is to release male Asian tiger mosquitoes that have been infected with a bacteria called Wolbachia pipientis. MosquitoMate must find a way to efficiently separate its non-biting male mosquitoes from females, a process that's now done by hand and mechanically.

Mosquitoes live an average of 30 to 40 days, so significant decreases in the mosquito population were seen in company trials in Kentucky, California and NY, which have resulted in an 80% reduction in the biting mosquito population. There's a good chance the method using a different species will also get wider EPA approval, so the South should get some mosquito relief soon as well.

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