The company, an arm of Alphabet, is using mosquitoes infected with a sterilizing bacteria to fight dengue and Zika.
Alphabet’s life sciences arm, Verily, says it has built a robot that can raise a million mosquitoes a week and has used it to produce infertile male insects. The company has started releasing the first batches of what will total 20 million sterilized mosquitoes in Fresno County, California.
This field trial is expected to be the largest U.S. release to date of male mosquitoes treated with Wolbachia, a type of naturally occurring bacteria that infects many types of insects. Verily says it is using custom-built software algorithms and machines to ramp up the number of mosquitoes it’s able to grow and release. The mosquitoes are part of the company’s plan, announced last October, to fight diseases like Zika and dengue fever.