20 million mosquitoes to hit Fresno; that's a good thing, really


20 million mosquitoes to hit Fresno; that's a good thing, really

The skeeters in question are male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which carry pathogens that cause illnesses like Zika, dengue, and chikungunya. To the tune of 20 million machine-reared, bacteria-infected mosquitoes that it's about to release into Fresno.

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes first arrived in Fresno in 2013, Bloomberg reports. Over a 20 week period, male Aedes aegypti mosquitos that have been treated with a natural occurring bacterium (Wolbachia) will be released into the wild.

After becoming a standalone Alphabet division in 2015, Verily has grown rapidly, taking on numerous health technology projects, partnering with the drug industry and raising significant funds including US$800mil (RM3.43bil) from Singapore investment firm Temasek Holdings Ltd. This initiative, dubbed the "Debug Project", is actually part of public health effort to fight the very mosquito populations that spread nasty scourges like the deformity-causing Zika virus.

"If we can show that this technique can work, I'm confident we can make it a sustainable business because the burden of these mosquitoes is enormous", said Verily engineering chief Linus Upson.

Researchers from Verily, MosquitoMate - a private biotechnology company - and Fresno County's mosquito control services, Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District (CMAD), will compare the adult population density and number of eggs hatched to measure any changes.

Verily's mosquitoes aren't genetically modified.

The biologist sorts mosquitoes collected in a trap in Hutchins, Texas.

The Debug Project will be the biggest United States study to set free mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia, a common reproductive parasite. While the release of a million insects a week in two neighborhoods seems unnerving, male bugs notably do not bite; only the females. The company's bug-releasing van will start traveling the streets of Fancher Creek, a neighborhood in Fresno County, on Friday.