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Use of technology to fight disease carrying mosquitoes

Technology companies are developing new ways to halt Zika and other mosquito borne maladies

American technology companies are looking to bring automation and robotics to battling mosquitoes in order to halt the spread of Zika and other diseases. Microsoft Corp and Verily, a California based life sciences company are forming partnerships in United States to test high tech tools. Microsoft is testing a smart trap in order to isolate Aedesaegypti mosquitoes, also known as Zika carriers for a study by entomologists to give them a jump on the prediction of its outbreaks. Verify is developing a process that creates sterile male mosquitoes to mate with females in the wild which offers a form of birth control for the species. 

It may take a few years for these advances to become available, although the new players are bringing fresh thinking to vector control. The Zika epidemic had emerged in 2015 across Brazil and left thousands of babies suffering from birth defects. Mosquitoes carrying the virus have been spreading across the US. A vast majority of 5,365 Zika cases were reported in US from travellers who contracted the virus elsewhere. Texas and Florida have cases transmitted by local mosquitoes, which makes them a testing ground for new technology.

In Texas, Microsoft has set 10 mosquito traps which are as large as the size of birdhouses. They use robotics, infrared sensors, cloud computing and machine learning to help the health officials keep a tab on potential disease carriers. Pregnant women are at a higher risk because they can pass the virus to their fetuses which results in a higher birth defect. In February 2016, the World Health Organization declared Zika a global health emergency. Microsoft uses a unique method to differentiate insects by measuring a feature that is unique to each species: the shadows cast by their beating wings. When a single trap detects the existence of a mosquito, in one of the 64 chambers, the door slams shut.

Other companiesare developing technology that is used to shrink mosquito populations by rendering the male Aedesaegypti mosquitoes sterile. When a sterile male mates with females in the wild, their eggs do not hatch. This is an alternative to chemical pesticides, but it requires the release of millions of laboratory tested mosquitoes into the outdoors.

 

In Lexington, inside the labs of MosquitoMate, immature mosquitoes are forced through a mechanism that separates the smaller males from females. These mosquitoes are then sorted to weed out any stray females that slip through. Further, Verily is automating mosquito sorting process with robots to make it quicker and affordable. It combines sensors, algorithms and novel engineering to speed up the process.

Officials are worried about the residents who contract Zika elsewhere and then spread it in Fresno if they are bitten by local mosquitoes that could then pass the virus to others. Companies across the United States are adopting innovative technology in order to develop a solution to the spread of Zika and other mosquito related diseases. 

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