As anyone looking to get pregnant in the near future could tell you, the Zika virus remains a very real and very scary epidemic — one that continues to interfere with Canadians’ travel plans, forcing many to reschedule all-inclusive vacations and adventurous trips abroad in fear of contracting the disease from the infected mosquitoes that live there.
It’s an even scarier issue for those living in South American and Caribbean countries, as children continue to be born with microcephaly (smaller heads) among other side effects. Which is why scientists are continuing to attack this thing as hard as they can, looking at potential vaccines and other drugs that may squash Zika sooner rather than later.
One North American company has already put its scientific plans into action — plans that might seem slightly counter-intuitive. Kentucky-Based company MosquitoMate has bred hoards of sterile male mosquitoes that are now being released into the world, namely in Miami. The company also hopes to do the same in other countries where Zika has appeared as well.
These male mosquitoes — don’t worry, they don’t bite humans — were sterilized with the Wolbachia bacteria, which will be transferred to female mosquitoes when they mate. Their subsequent eggs will then be empty, effectively stopping more mosquitoes from being born. In turn, that means the spread of mosquito-borne diseases like Zika, dengue fever and chikungunya can potentially be controlled.
It seems like a pretty genius solution to us, if it works. Right now, the company has only been granted a six-month trial period from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to track the effectiveness of more than half a billion bred mosquitoes.
“It makes people’s eyes grow very wide when we talk about releasing mosquitoes into their yard,” MosquitoMate CEO Stephen Dobson told Your Morning. “But then when we explain they’re male mosquitoes — male mosquitoes don’t bite, they don’t blood feed, they don’t transmit pathogens. But they do find those female mosquitoes, mate and effectively sterilize them for life.”
Sounds like a pretty good starting point. Our fingers are crossed.