The St. Croix Mosquito Project: Wolbachia-based Sterile Insect Technique (SIT)
The Wolbachia-based Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) is a method of mosquito control where non-biting, sterile male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are released to mate with wild, biting female mosquitoes. When the non-biting, sterile male mosquitoes mate with the wild female mosquitoes, none of the eggs laid by the female mosquitoes can hatch, producing no offspring. Over time, this will reduce the number of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the area the non-biting, sterile male mosquitoes are being released.
The St. Croix Mosquito Project uses a Wolbachia-based SITand does not use genetic modification (GM). Wolbachia is a naturally occurring bacterium found in 6 out of 10 insects worldwide including bees, butterflies, and beetles. The VIDOH is leading the project in partnership with Verily and MosquitoMate. VIDOH is also working closely with local government regulatory agencies.
Similar projects have been conducted in many locations around the world such as California, Singapore, and Australia, with great success. The project will be conducted for six months in some St. Croix neighborhoods with releases typically occurring for three days out of the week. The project team will be hosting town hall meetings for the public and provide other opportunities to get involved and learn more about the project.
Funding for this project is provided by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and administered by National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO).
A different type of SIT was successfully used on St. Croix in the 1970s to control a livestock pest. For more information about how SIT was used on St. Croix in the past, click here.