Google parent company Alphabet has its life sciences division focused on forcing a mass mosquito extinction. In the California city of Fresno, researchers are breeding and setting loose sterilized mosquitos that could help wipe out the larger population, according to a new Bloomberg report on the early testing of the program.
Like the buzz of an obnoxious fly, it’s a headline that’s hard to ignore, if only because it seems so strange. And sure, mosquitos are annoying. But this isn’t overkill. The bloodsucking insects are a public health issue as disease-carrying, infection-spreading pests responsible for disseminating serious and sometimes deadly illnesses such the Zika virus, malaria, and the dengue virus.
Alphabet has been moving into health and life sciences for a while, with an eye toward partnerships in wearables with companies like Fitbit but also with Verily, which it rebranded from a moonshot to a full division within Alphabet, when Google divided a number of departments amidst its 2015 rebranding.
There’s still at least one unknown in this plan: The exact role mosquitos play in the global ecosystem. It’s not a topic that’s ever been studied in great enough detail. But one thing no one will miss, in addition to those itchy bites, is the threat of a global mosquito-borne epidemic.