May 27, 2018

Google's Verily robots release millions of mosquitos in California

17 July 2017, 02:32 | Darrell Baldwin

A creative approach to fighting Zika virus. PAULO WHITAKER

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are seen inside Oxitec laboratory in Campinas Brazil

It was the first confirmed case of Zika in the area, and now there's a lingering threat of disease spread if any mosquito comes in contact with the patient. The insects will be treated with Wolbachia, a naturally-occurring bacteria which prevents the eggs produced by the males and wild females from developing and hatching.

A giant technology company is releasing up to 20 million bacteria-filled, buzzing mosquitoes this summer in Fresno, California. First arriving in Fresno in 2013.

After becoming a standalone Alphabet division in 2015, Verily has grown rapidly, taking on numerous health technology projects, partnering with the drug industry and raising significant funds including US$800mil (RM3.43bil) from Singapore investment firm Temasek Holdings Ltd. Verily's Debug Project is the only plausible method to get rid of the potential threat by combating Zika-carrying mosquitos.

Engineering chief Linus Upson, who helped create Google's Chrome web browser and now leads Debug says,"If we can show that this technique can work, I'm confident we can make it a sustainable business because the burden of these mosquitoes is enormous".

Verily's mosquitoes aren't genetically modified.

The male mosquitoes will be released over 20 weeks in two neighborhoods of about 300 acres each using an automated device, also built by Verily. The field study is called Debug Fresno. The study would be conducted by Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District, MosquitoMate, and Verily, and this video is meant to inform residents of the possible activities of this study.

"This study will be the largest USA release to-date of sterile male mosquitoes treated with Wolbachia, a naturally occurring bacterium, and will take place over a 20 week period in two neighborhoods each approximately 300 acres in size", wrote Verily in a blog post.

Those in the Fancher Creek neighborhood may notice a Verily van releasing healthy swarms of the little bugs throughout its streets starting today.

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