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An Aedes aegypti mosquitoe that can spread dengue, Zika and chikungunya. Photo: App Gomes/AFP/Getty Images

In an experiment, Australian scientists killed more than 80% of the mosquitoes that spread dengue fever, Zika and chikungunya by using a sterilization technique in locations across north Queensland.

Why it matters: This experiment was conducted as part of a global effort to combat the pest that infects millions with disease each year, and its success offers a potential solution to controlling the spread of deadly illnesses.

How they did it: Scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Verily and James Cook University (JCU) bred almost 20 million male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in a laboratory, infecting males with a naturally occurring bacteria that made them sterile.

  • More than three million of the males were later released in trial zones along the Cassowary Coast in Queensland. The sterile male mosquitoes mated with wild females, resulting in eggs that did not hatch.
"The invasive Aedes aegypti mosquito is one of the world’s most dangerous pests, capable of spreading devastating diseases like dengue, Zika and chikungunya and responsible for infecting millions of people with disease around the world each year,"
— CSIRO director of health and biosecurity Rob Grenfell, in a press release.

The process used in the study, known as the Sterile Insect Technique, has existed since the 1950s. However, this is one of the few times it has been successfully used for Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

Verily, an affiliate of Google parent company Alphabet, developed a mosquito rearing and sex sorting and release technology used in the study.

Editor's note: The text was updated to indicate that this study was not the first to use the SIT technique on Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

Go deeper

Updated 40 mins ago - Politics & Policy

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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden readies massive shifts in policy for his first days in office.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.
  6. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Dave Lawler, author of World
1 hour ago - World

Alexey Navalny detained after landing back in Moscow

Navalny during a march last February. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was detained upon his return to Moscow on Sunday, which came five months after he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. He returned despite being warned that he would be arrested.

The latest: Navalny was stopped at a customs checkpoint and led away alone by officers. He appeared to hug his wife goodbye, and his spokesman reports that his lawyer was not allowed to accompany him.

Mike Allen, author of AM
3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.

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