Perspective

EPA approves use of bacterium for mosquito control

Image of Aedes albopictus mosquito
The EPA has approved the use of modified mosquitoes to control local populations.
Source: James Gathany/CDC.

The EPA has approved the use of a common bacterium to kill mosquitos capable of spreading diseases to humans.

The agency said this week that it would allow male Aedes albopictus mosquitoes carrying a strain of the Wolbachia bacterium to be sold for 5 years in 20 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Although another species, A. aegypti, has been the main vector in the recent Zika virus epidemic, A. albopictus is thought to be a competent spreader of the virus and is known to transmit dengue and chikungunya.

The mosquitoes approved for use by the EPA, ZAP Males (MosquitoMate), are infected with W. pipientis, which they pass on to females during mating. The females then produce offspring that do not survive.

Wolbachia are naturally occurring bacteria that can be found in 60% of insects. Following a risk assessment, the EPA determined that releasing the modified mosquitoes in the wild would have no adverse impact on any other organism. – by Gerard Gallagher

Reference:

EPA. EPA registers the Wolbachia ZAP strain in live male Asian tiger mosquitoes. https://www.epa.gov/pesticides/epa-registers-wolbachia-zap-strain-live-male-asian-tiger-mosquitoes. Accessed November 10, 2017.

Image of Aedes albopictus mosquito
The EPA has approved the use of modified mosquitoes to control local populations.
Source: James Gathany/CDC.

The EPA has approved the use of a common bacterium to kill mosquitos capable of spreading diseases to humans.

The agency said this week that it would allow male Aedes albopictus mosquitoes carrying a strain of the Wolbachia bacterium to be sold for 5 years in 20 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Although another species, A. aegypti, has been the main vector in the recent Zika virus epidemic, A. albopictus is thought to be a competent spreader of the virus and is known to transmit dengue and chikungunya.

The mosquitoes approved for use by the EPA, ZAP Males (MosquitoMate), are infected with W. pipientis, which they pass on to females during mating. The females then produce offspring that do not survive.

Wolbachia are naturally occurring bacteria that can be found in 60% of insects. Following a risk assessment, the EPA determined that releasing the modified mosquitoes in the wild would have no adverse impact on any other organism. – by Gerard Gallagher

Reference:

EPA. EPA registers the Wolbachia ZAP strain in live male Asian tiger mosquitoes. https://www.epa.gov/pesticides/epa-registers-wolbachia-zap-strain-live-male-asian-tiger-mosquitoes. Accessed November 10, 2017.

    Perspective

    Marm Kilpatrick

    The use of Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes is another tool for mosquito control that can be moderately effective in short-term local mosquito control. I am not aware of any likely substantial adverse effects associated with this approach so far, but I think the data are somewhat limited at this point. There is obviously the potential for unforeseen impacts, and there should be relatively strong selective pressure for females to avoid mating with Wolbachia-infected males, so the long-term efficacy of this approach is uncertain.

    This approach has some obvious advantages over the use of broad-spectrum insecticides in that it primarily affects the target species, and thus avoids impacting other insects.

    • Marm Kilpatrick, PhD
    • Associate professor
      Department of ecology and evolutionary biology
      University of California, Santa Cruz

    Disclosures: Kilpatrick reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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