bacteria-infected mosquitoes

Keeping away from mosquitoes — and even getting rid of the blood-sucking insects — is high on many people’s wish lists. Many methods of mosquito protection exist, including effective natural repellents. And one company recently received EPA approval to control mosquitoes by fighting mosquitoes with… mosquitoes.

On November 3, 2017, the EPA gave approval for the Kentucky-based biotechnology company, MosquitoMate, to release bacteria-infected male mosquitoes in 20 different states in an effort to control mosquito population.

While bacteria-infected mosquitoes sounds alarming, it’s actually quite strategic. These lab-grown mosquitoes are infected with the Wolbachia bacteria, a bacteria that is not found in the Aedes aegypti mosquito. When the infected males mate with female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the eggs that are produced will not hatch because the paternal chromosomes will not form properly. This should lead to fewer mosquitoes of this species overall. Since the Aedes aegypti is responsible for the transmission of yellow fever, dengue, Chikungunya, and Zika virus, this could minimize exposure and risk for humans contracting those diseases.

And even better? The female mosquitoes that become infected by the Wolbachia bacteria will be less likely to spread those diseases themselves.

What About Humans?

But with extra mosquitoes flying around, won’t this be a problem for humans? Actually, it shouldn’t. The Wolbachia bacteria does not affect humans or animals; only mosquitoes are affected. Plus, male mosquitoes feed on plant nectar and do not bite humans or animals. Female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are the ones responsible for spreading the dangerous diseases of yellow fever, dengue, and Zika.

Some Kinks to Work Out

But don’t expect total annihilation of the Aedes aegypti species anytime soon (wouldn’t that be nice, though?). The lab process for these bacteria-infected male mosquitoes is tricky. The success of the process depends on separating the male mosquitoes from the female mosquitoes before the males can be released. And currently, MosquitoMate is doing this by having lab technicians sort the mosquitoes by hand. This is a time-consuming process.

In addition, it would take time for populations to diminish or be eradicated as it would take millions of mosquitoes to suppress the population of wild mosquitoes. Because of predators and other dangers, not every male mosquito that is released will have the chance to mate.

Where Will They Be Released?

MosquitoMate has run successful tests in Kentucky, New York, and California, and has been approved to release their lab-born mosquitoes in 20 states with similar weather conditions, including: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, and West Virginia. Mosquitoes will also be released in Washington, DC. The mosquitoes have not been tested in Southern states, and have not been approved for release in those climates.

Interestingly enough, this concept is happening elsewhere. China and Brazil have also successfully tested lab-grown genetically modified mosquitoes. Is this the solution to deadly mosquito-borne diseases? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, continue to take measures that can protect yourself and your family from mosquitoes, their bite, their itch, and potential diseases. Wear insect repellent when you’re outdoors. Deter Insect Repellent is 100% natural and is scientifically proven to repel mosquitoes for more than six hours.