Genetically Killing Off Zika With Infected Mosquitoes

EPA authorizes turning mosquitoes into a biopesticide to stop the Zika virus from spreading

Mosquito-borne illnesses have plagued humans for centuries. The solution to stopping the spread of the Zika virus just might be more mosquitoes.

But, these are not your common mosquitoes.

New science is turning these flying pests into a ‘biopesticide' to stop the Zika virus from spreading further.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its approval for the release of a common insect-infecting bacteria called ZAP Males® to reduce mosquito populations in 20 states and the District of Columbia.

The EPA says Zap Males can reduce mosquito populations that can spread diseases, including the Zika virus.

ZAP Males are live male mosquitoes that are infected with the ZAP strain, a particular strain of the Wolbachia bacterium, a naturally occurring bacteria commonly found in most insect species.

After being infected, these male mosquitoes mate with females, which then produce offspring that do not survive.

With continued releases of the ZAP Males, local Aedes albopictus or Asian Tiger mosquito populations decrease.

This EPA time-limited authorization enables MosquitoMate, Inc. to sell ZAP Males for five years in the District of Columbia and California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, and West Virginia.

Before the ZAP Males can be used in each of those jurisdictions, it must be registered in the state or district. When the five-year authorization terminates, the registration will expire unless the registrant requests further action from EPA.

Currently, the EPA has only approved ZAP Males that target Asian Tiger mosquitoes.

Since June, 2017, MosquitoMate has been testing the effectiveness of ZAP Males near Key West, Fla.

Male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes were released at 25 locations in the Key West area. At each point, 1,000 male mosquitoes were released three times per week for a total of 75,000 male mosquitoes each week.

According to Dr. Stephen Dobson with MosquitoMate, Inc., “Male mosquitoes do not bite, and Wolbachia is not harmful to humans.”

The Florida test “ended a bit early due to Hurricane Irma,” Dr. Dobson told Lex18 News

MosquitoMate, Inc., a Lexington, KY based company, is a privately-held biotechnology company, founded on Intellectual Property developed at the University of Kentucky, Department of Entomology.

The EPA’s risk assessments, and pesticide labeling, and the registration decision, can be found under docket number EPA-HQ-OPP-2016-0205.