No one likes the idea of being bitten by a mosquito, especially if that pesky pest also is carrying around viruses as deadly as yellow fever, dengue and Zika. But what if you could eradicate the diseased insects by releasing assassin versions of mosquitoes to kill them off?
On Nov. 3, the Environmental Protection Agency approved a new approach from the biotech company MosquitoMate. The goal is to destroy populations of wild mosquitoes that could be carrying nasty viruses, according to a report from Nature magazine.
Instead of relying on genetic engineering, MosquitoMate infects lab-grown mosquitoes with the common bacterium Wolbachia pipientis, which affects mosquitoes but not animals or humans.
The Wolbachia-infected male mosquitoes (which don’t bite) mate with the wild populations of female Asian tiger mosquitoes (which do bite). The eggs fertilized by MosquitoMate’s male mosquitoes won’t hatch because the paternal chromosomes don’t form properly due to the effects of the bacterium.