April 18, 2017 | Testing a new way to kill mosquitoes that carry Zika and other viruses, The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District released 20,000 bacteria-infected, male mosquitoes into the wild Tuesday near Key West. The mosquitoes were infected by the Kentucky-based company MosquitoMate with the naturally occurring Wolbachia bacteria.
Offspring produced by the lab-bred mosquitoes after mating with wild female mosquitoes won’t survive to adulthood. Male mosquitoes don’t bite, and Wolbachia is not harmful to humans.
The trial is expected to last about three months, with twice-weekly releases. Seven Wolbachia-infected males should be released for every one wild male in the field to drive down the mosquito population. The district has been exploring new ways to control Aedes aegypti (also known as the yellow fever mosquito) populations, which thrive in urban environments and spread diseases such as Zika, dengue fever and chikungunya.
MosquitoMate is awaiting permits from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to sell a related mosquito species, known as the “Asian tiger mosquito,” infected with Wolbachia as a pest control service. Though these mosquitoes also can carry viruses, experts consider them less of a threat for triggering outbreaks than Aedes aegypti.
The FDA is seeking public comment on a proposal clarifying which mosquito-related products it regulates and which ones would be regulated by the EPA.