EPA approves bacteria-infected mosquitoes to fight Zika

Specially bred

Specially bred

It sounds like the plot of a science-fiction story - man-made killer mosquitoes set to be released among the public. The male mosquitoes don't bite humans, and mating them with wild female mosquitoes will result in fertilized eggs that don't hatch.

MosquitoMate, which is based in Lexington, Kentucky, received permission to release the mosquitoes, which have been infected with the bacteria called Wolbachia pipientis, Newsweek reports. But it's actually the culmination of a 20-year scientific discovery with the objective of eliminating the deadliest vector-borne diseases, including dengue fever and the Zika virus.

Individual property owners, from hotels to homeowners, would be able to purchase the ZAP bugs, but it may take a while for the company to spread across all 20 states - the company will have to produce millions of mosquitoes and they are now separating the male from the female ZAP mosquitoes by hand.

This will deplete the population of the unsafe mosquitoes.

For more than 4,000 years, humans have battled mosquito-borne diseases, and now, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved a line of lab-grown mosquitoes created to reduce the number of these illness-causing insects.

The mosquitoes are licensed to sell in 20 states, including New York, New Jersey, and CT, and Washington, D.C., for five years, but they must also be registered in those jurisdictions before they can be used.

While these viruses are not endemic to the US but more frequently in tropical locations, epidemiologists worry about a growing prevalence in the southern part of the country, where outbreaks have occurred in Texas, Florida and Hawaii. This bacteria can not be transmitted to mammals, and eggs fertilized by infected males will not hatch.

The 19 other approved states are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, and West Virginia, as well as Washington, DC.

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