The new approach, for controlling mosquitoes in 20 states and District of Columbia has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the approach is known as the use of biopesticide, i.e., the use of Wolbachia bacterial-infected mosquitoes. Thus, the approach would aid to eradicate mosquitoes that spread viral illnesses such as Dengue, Chikungunya, Zika, etc.

Scott O'Neill, an Australian scientist, has been working for the last 20 years to make the Wolbachiainfected mosquitoes effective in vector control. Millions of people are infected Wolbachiawith dengue disease yearly and of these thousands die each year. Hence, O'Neill wanted to work on vectors that spread dengue. Dengue is a deadly incurable viral disease, transmitted through the Aedes, variety of mosquitoes.

For prevention of transmission of the infection, two approaches were identified; Wolbachia infection of the mosquitoes and genetic modification of the mosquitoes. However, genetic modification approach had not seen any success until now, but it was seen that Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes were unable to carry the dengue virus.

The Wolbachia bacteria render the mosquito unable to carry or transmit the dengue virus and thus stop the transmission chain. In a small project, O'Neill had released some of his Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes within two small communities in northeastern Australia.

During the study, he found that the Wolbachia infected mosquitoes replaced all the wild mosquito population within a very brief period. Thus, the spread of dengue in the communities had been stopped. Introduction of Wolbachia bacteria into the eggs of the mosquitoes was the biggest hurdle. From these eggs, adult mosquitoes emerge that might be infected with the bacteria.

The biopesticide, ZAP Males®, which are Wolbachia infected mosquitoes that could reduce the population of several species of mosquitoes including Aedes albopictus, or Asian Tiger Mosquitoes. The Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes are adult male mosquitoes that are infected with the ZAP strain of the Wolbachia bacterium.

The Wolbachia infected mosquitoes could mate with female mosquitoes that lay eggs which do not survive. This kills the life cycle and stops the further propagation of mosquitoes that spread viral infection. David O’Brochta, an entomologist, called this an appealing option as it is a “non-chemical” option of dealing with the mosquitoes.