Lab raised mosquitoes released to fight Zika

KEY LARGO, FLA. (WSVN) - Researchers have found a way to shrink the mosquito population in the Florida Keys ahead of the rainy season.

About 40,000 mosquitoes a week from a laboratory in Kentucky are flown into the Florida Keys.

“There’s 1,000 male aedes aegypti mosquitoes in this tube,” said Catherine Pruszynski, who is with the Florida Keys Mosquito Control.

Pruszynski has 20 of these tubes filled with mosquitoes. “They might be a little annoying if they’re flying around, you know, with a thousand right next to you,” she said. “I’m not annoyed, but you guys might be a little annoyed. Oh, I just ate one.”

Twice a week, Pruszynski walks a 10-acre test site on Stock Island, which is part industrial, part residential and blows the mosquitos out into the air to then go find a female and mate.

These mosquitoes that come from Kentucky’s MosquitoMate laboratory have been fed a natural bacteria called Wolbachia.

That bacteria sterilizes the males. Officials said that the males don’t bite, just the females, and that leads to the “mad science,” says Dr. Stephen Dobson with MosquitoMate.

“That’s the key advantage with this, is they’re self-delivering,” Dobson said. “They find females and when they mate with those females, they don’t kill the females, but the eggs don’t hatch.”

Logically, they said the mosquito population should dramatically shrink.

This species of mosquito can infect humans with potentially deadly viruses like Zika, dengue fever and chikungunya.

Zika is linked to birth defects in babies born to women who became infected while pregnant.

The mosquitoes thrive in South Florida’s humid, sub-tropical climate and the wet season is not far along.

Mosquito experts are eager to see how effective these buzzing tubes will be.

Last year, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control intended to do a similar lab-mosquito release, but with genetically modified mosquitos.

There was great opposition from residents in the area. Since this 12-week test uses bacteria, not GMOs, there has not been much push back, as of now.

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