This is evident from research results that Verily shared with Bloomberg on Monday. At the height of the mosquito season at a test site, the experiment, entitled ‘Debug’, reduced the number of insects by 93 percent.
Verily did this by releasing his own male midges, which were infected with a Wolbachia bacterium. When these mosquitoes tried to reproduce with females, the eggs never hatched.
Every day, 80,000 of those Wolbachia mosquitoes were released, resulting in millions in total. They flooded the entire mosquito population. Healthy males had less opportunity to reproduce and the number of new mosquitoes decreased.
At the moment the project is still in an experimental phase, but eventually the sites can be used in countries where diseases such as dengue fever and the Zika virus often spread through mosquitoes.
Verily looks at how this process can be optimized. For example, it is being investigated how male and female mosquitoes can be separated in the lab. This is also happening on a large scale: as many as 14.4 million mosquitoes were released in tests in 2019.