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Scientists: Altered mosquitoes key to stopping Zika - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Scientists: Altered mosquitoes key to stopping Zika

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CLOVIS, Calif. -

Mosquito control teams in one California neighborhood are trying a new tactic to battle the bugs that carry the Zika virus. The mosquito is called the Aedes aegypti.

"Aedes aegypti is a vector of some very serious diseases, historically, yellow fever, and now more recently, Zika virus," said Steve Mulligan of the consolidated mosquito abatement district.

Scientists are releasing hundreds of thousands of scientifically altered male mosquitoes to mate with Zika-prone females. The altered males carry a bacteria called Wolbachia, which prevents the females from reproducing. The females are the only ones that bite people and spread disease.

"So the eggs are not viable, they won't hatch!" biologist Jodi Holeman said.

A lab in Kentucky injected the male mosquitoes with the bacteria and shipped them to California. Researchers expect the mosquito population will plummet, and they could use this army of mosquitoes strategically against Zika if it appears.

"Maybe you start to see disease transmission in a certain area and you can go to that area with these mosquitoes and release them," Holeman explained.

Researchers say so far, the project's results are promising, with tens of thousands more altered mosquitoes left to deploy.

So far, Fresno's is the only program using modified mosquitoes from the same species that carries the Zika virus. But if it's successful, those bugs could be used in Florida, where Zika cases are growing.

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