Zhiyong Xi, a researcher from Michigan State University, aims to rid China and the entire world of Mosquitos, especially the ones that carry ravaging diseases such as Zika, Dengue, Yellow fever and more.
Xi in an interview said, “We are building ‘good mosquitos’ that will help us in destroying the bad ones.”
This ‘Mosquito Factory’ is a 3500-square-foot laboratory on Sun Yat-Sen University's science campus, which is located in Guangzhou China. The center's full name is the Sun Yat-Sen-Michigan State University Joint Center of Vector Control for Tropical Disease, wherein, the researchers are breeding up to 5 million Aedes albopictus mosquitoes a week, a mosquito species more common in Asia, responsible for spreading both dengue and Zika.
The mosquitoes are infected with bacteria which is called Wolbachia. This bacteria prevents the mosquitoes from transferring viruses into the human body. Only the males of this group are released because the bacteria, which occurs naturally in about 28% of wild mosquitoes, causes infected males to sterilise the females they mate with.
Every week, the scientists release 3 million of these bacteria-infected mosquitoes on Shazai island, a village 60 kms from the factory and according to Xi, the location keeps incoming mosquito population at bay. Xi expects this technique to lead to a massive reduction in the number of mosquitoes.
Zhiyong Xi explains how these mosquitoes are made. Initially, researchers start by injecting the Wolbachia bacteria into the mosquito eggs under a microscope. These mosquitoes then breed and produce more eggs, which are grown in water-filled trays until they morph into larvae.
After these larvae develop into pupae, researchers manually separate the males from the females through a glass sieve-like contraption for about four hours each day. The lab assistants then destroy the females while the males are packed in plastic containers so that they can grow into adult mosquitoes which are later released.
So far Xi and his team claim that they have repressed the mosquito population on the island by an astonishing 96%, but the scientists are questioning whether they will be able to implement this island experiment in larger areas.
Although many considered this method as unconventional, some scientists are calling it one of the most promising ways to eliminate two of the most common mosquito-borne diseases that affect millions each year.
Title image: theatlantic