I saw in the news that Verily Life Sciences will participate in an experimental release of sterile male aedes aegypti mosquitos in Fresno, California. Aedes aegypti is considered an invasive species in California, and can be a vector for human disease including dengue fever, zika, and chikungunya (according to the video). See the Verily blog Debug Fresno, our first U.S. field study and/or the attached YouTube video Introducing Debug Fresno.

The released male mosquitos will cary a bacteria called wolbachia, which when transferred to the female during mating will prevent eggs laid by the female from hatching. Wobachia presence, parasitism and mutualism with insects is widespread, and Wikipedia's article on it even includes a section on applications to human-related infections.

Question: Are the males said to be sterile because of the bacteria which results in nonviable eggs, or are they also incidentally sterile in addition to being vectors for the wolbachia bacteria (and eggs were presumably fertilized by other matings)?

  • $\begingroup$ I haven't read too much into it, but I think both is correct. The males are sterile and they make the females subsequently sterile. $\endgroup$ – CKM Jul 17 '17 at 19:53
  • $\begingroup$ @CMosychuk that would be my guess too. Since the males don't carry anything genetically that would reduce the population, releasing fertile males would be counterproductive. But I don't know if one can call otherwise fertile males sterile because they carry the bacteria, so I think the use of "sterile" here does not refer to the impact of the bacteria on the eggs. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jul 18 '17 at 5:14

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