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Lab-Bred, Bacteria-Infected Mosquitoes To Be Used To Help Combat Zika

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MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — Thousands of bacteria-infected mosquitoes will be flying near Miami to test a new way to suppress insect populations that carry Zika and other viruses.

According to a statement from the Kentucky-based company MosquitoMate, the first mosquitoes will be released in the city of South Miami.

A statement on the Miami-Dade County website, the program will designate a one-half-square-mile treatment area and a similarly-sized control area within the City of South Miami.

The test is in collaboration with the Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control and Habitat Management Division.

MosquitoMate infects male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes with the naturally occurring Wolbachia bacteria. Any offspring produced when the lab-bred mosquitoes mate with wild female mosquitoes won't survive to adulthood.

Male mosquitoes don't bite, and don't harm the environment.

Wolbachia is a naturally-occurring bacterium present in up to 60 percent of all the different species of insects around us, including some mosquitoes. It is not infectious and cannot be transmitted to any warm-blooded animals or humans.

MosquitoMate male mosquitoes are not genetically modified. The male mosquitoes that will be used in this project have been reviewed and approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

MosquitoMate has completed successful trials in Kentucky, California, and New York. Trials have shown significant reduction in the female Aedes aegypti mosquito population. The released male mosquitoes only mate with the females of the same species so there is no effect on other mosquito species.

A similar trial began near Key West last spring.

Hurricane Irma's landfall in the Florida Keys interrupted the final weeks of monitoring for that trial. The results are still pending.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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