Australian Scientists Just Eliminated 80% of Disease-Carrying Mosquitoes in 3 Towns
Aedes aegypti mosquitoes spread diseases like dengue fever and the Zika virus.
More than 80% of mosquitoes carrying diseases have been wiped out across three locations in north Queensland, Australia after a successful experiment carried out by scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and James Cook University (JCU).
Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which were the focus of the experiment, spread diseases like dengue fever and the Zika virus.
Working in partnership with health research organization Verily, the scientists attempted to eliminate this mosquito population.
Researchers bred nearly 20 million of the mosquitoes in JCU laboratories — but they infected the males with bacteria that made them sterile, according to CNN. Then, they let over 3 million of them loose in three towns on the Cassowary Coast.
The male mosquitoes didn’t bite or spread any disease and because they were sterile, eggs resulting from them mating with wild females never hatched, causing the population’s numbers to plummet.
"The invasive Aedes aegypti mosquito is one of the world's most dangerous pests," CSIRO Director of Health and Biosecurity Rob Grenfell said in a statement. "Although the majority of mosquitoes don't spread diseases, the three mostly deadly types — the Aedes, Anopheles, and Culex — are found almost all over the world and are responsible for around (17%) of infectious disease transmissions globally."
Mosquito-borne diseases range from Zika and dengue fever to West Nile virus, Chikungunya virus, and malaria, and can all lead to serious outbreaks, like the Zika outbreak in 2015.
Eradicating the Aedes aegypti mosquito could have a significantly positive impact on public health around the world.
Because this kind of mosquito is an invasive species from Africa, eliminating them altogether in Australia wouldn’t cause much ecological harm there, according to CNN.
"The main ecological impact would be to restore the ecosystem to how it was before the mosquitoes invaded," Verily's site explains.