World’s favourite search engine titan Google has set its sight on a rather uncharacteristic mission – to cause a mass extinction of mosquitos. Alphabet, Google’s parent company Alphabet has directed its life sciences division Verily to find a way to make that happen. According to a report in Bloomberg, early testing of the programme has already begun. In Fresno, California, researchers have begun breeding loose sterilised mosquitoes that will exterminate the others.
Mosquitoes are more than just annoying, blood-sucking insects. They are vectors who carry viruses that cause diseases like Zika virus infection, malaria, dengue, yellow fever and West Nile fever. Global efforts are being taken to prevent the breeding of these dangerous vectors. Mosquitoes With Defective Sperm To Counter Zika Virus Developed by Brazilian Scientists.
While it sounds odd to imagine Alphabet and Google endeavour for something outside the purview of technology, they have set up a full division for life sciences within Alphabet.
Debug, Verily's unit of scientists and engineers, are now finding ways to target Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the ones responsible for Zika, chikungunya and yellow fever. According to the Verily website, 40 percent of the world is at risk of falling prey to a disease spread by the mosquito.
It will work closely with scientists, communities and various governments to release sterile mosquitoes into the environment.
If you’ve been wondering how sterilised mosquitoes can decimate the population of the disease-causing ones, here’s how.
Sterile Insect Technique
Sterile Insect Technique or SIT is a species-specific technique of controlling the population of a particular insect. It is a safe and environmentally non-polluting method.
By sterile insects, scientists refer to mosquitoes or other bugs that cannot reproduce. So when the sterile male insects are released onto the mosquito population, they mate with the fertile females mosquitoes, lowering their reproductive potential.
Male varieties are generally preferred for SIT since they are more cost effective. Female mosquitoes are not preferred for SIT since they can lay eggs on crops or feed off humans.
Previously, highly successful experiments with screwworm fly has helped eliminate the pests from US, Mexico, Central America and Libya, where the insects had wracked havoc.