Google fights against disease-carrying mosquitoes

Taking a tech approach to mosquito problems.

The original company that founded Google is now known as Alphabet and it's working on ways to destroy disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Alphabet's health company, Verily, is working on a project called the ‘Debug Project’.

Its aim is to help communities reduce populations of an invasive species of mosquito called Aedes aegypti. This species is a carrier of potentially-fatal diseases like dengue, Zika, Chikungunya and Yellow Fever.

Verily’s team of mosquito biologists and computer scientists focus on the sterile insect technique, which has been used for many decades to control mosquito populations.

The idea is to release infertile male insects into the wild to mate with females, that will then release eggs that won’t hatch. It is most effective in controlling mosquito species that tend not to travel much in their lifetimes, and that only mate once. On both those counts, Aedes aegypti is an ideal candidate.

Verily’s Debug Project is focusing on non-genetically modified organism alternatives. The plan is to sterilise male mosquitoes by infecting them with a naturally occurring bacteria called Wolbachia. This bacteria, which is possibly the most common reproductive parasite, will cause the males to become sterile, while leaving them physically up to the task of competing for females in the wild.

This is one of a number of options being researched in the attempt to minimise the risk of major disease outbreaks being caused by mosquitoes.