What Could Go Wrong? EPA Approves Bacteria-Infected Lab-Grown Mosquitoes

By Mac Slavo

Lab-grown mosquitoes armed with bacterium Wolbachia pipientis have just been approved by the EPA. The agency is saying that these mosquitoes could be the key to killing off insects that often transmit dangerous viruses such as Zika.

Nothing can go wrong, right? The government would never do that to us. Famous last words, but nonetheless, the created mosquitoes are very real! Mosquitoes are annoying the way it is, and adding the Zika virus has been exactly no fun for anyone. But is it worth infecting mosquitoes with bacteria in order to help stop the Zika virus? The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) says “yes.”

On November 3, the Environmental Protection Agency approved a new approach from the biotech company MosquitoMate. The goal is to destroy populations of wild mosquitoes that could be carrying nasty viruses, according to a report from Nature magazine. –CNET

MosquitoMate infects lab-grown mosquitoes with the common bacterium Wolbachia pipientis, which affects mosquitoes but they claim it does not affect not animals or humans. They chose to infect lab-grown mosquitoes over genetic modification, although the reason for this decision is not yet known. MosquitoMate will release these insects in 20 states (which include Washington D.C., and Kentucky) this summer.

The Wolbachia-infected male mosquitoes (which don’t bite) mate with the wild populations of female Asian tiger mosquitoes (which do bite). The eggs fertilized by MosquitoMate’s male mosquitoes won’t hatch because the paternal chromosomes don’t form properly due to the effects of the bacterium.

But the process to create these mosquitoes is time consuming, and millions must be made and infected for the insects to do their job, and make a dent in the Zika virus.

MosquitoMate hopes its GMO-free solution to destroying deadly mosquitoes will earn the praise from those of us who want a more natural way keeping mosquitoes that could end up making us sick out of our yards. “Unlike traditional mosquito control, we don’t show up after you have a problem,” according to MosquitoMate’s FAQ. “By acting proactively, your population of Asian Tiger mosquitoes will not reach a nuisance level.”

Let’s just hope they are right that the bacterium being used is not harmful to humans or animals…

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