Australian scientists have successfully wiped out more than 80% of disease-carrying mosquitoes in trial locations across north Queensland.
The experiment, conducted by scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and James Cook University (JCU), targeted Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which spread deadly diseases such as dengue fever and Zika.
In JCU laboratories, researchers bred almost 20 million mosquitoes, infecting males with bacteria that made them sterile. Then, last summer, they released over three million of them in three towns on the Cassowary Coast.
The sterile male mosquitoes didn’t bite or spread disease, but when they mated with wild females, the resulting eggs didn’t hatch, and the population crashed.
Although the process used in the experiment, called the Sterile Insect Technique, has been around since the 1950s, it has never been used for mosquitoes like the Aedes aegypti.
This CSIRO-JCU experiment, however, aimed to eradicate those populations altogether, working in partnership with Verily, a health research organization owned by Google parent Alphabet.
Since the Aedes aegypti is an invasive species native to Africa, wiping them out in Australia wouldn’t do much ecological damage in the country.
” According to Verily, “the main ecological impact would be to restore the ecosystem to how it was before the mosquitoes invaded