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Developing technology to deliver non-biting sterile male mosquitoes to reduce wild populations

Our research to reduce populations of mosquitoes that are able to transmit diseases is based on the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) developed in the 1950s. We are introducing a natural bacterium called Wolbachia into the male Aedes aegypti. It has been shown that when a male mosquito with Wolbachia mates with a wild female (without Wolbachia or a different strain of Wolbachia) she will still lay her normal number of eggs, but they won’t hatch. This is also known as incompatible mating.

We are now preparing for a large-scale study to see if we can significantly reduce the Aedes aegypti mosquito population in the Innisfail region of the Cassowary Coast, far north Queensland.

The success of our work is dependent on the Wolbachia males we rear and release out-competing wild Aedes aegypti males to mate with wild Aedes aegypti females. We’re helped in our ability to do this by the science conducted at James Cook University, Cairns and the tools that project partner Verily’s engineers are developing in their labs in the USA.

Community support and government approval in sites selected for planned releases is critical for the study to proceed. We are currently meeting with residents and business owners in the Innisfail region to talk further about our plans for the 2017/18 wet season and answer any questions.