Australian experiment wipes out over 80% of disease-carrying mosquitoes

An Aedes Aegypti mosquito on human skin in a lab of the International Training and Medical Research Training Center (CIDEIM) in 2016.

(CNN)In an experiment with global implications, Australian scientists have successfully wiped out more than 80% of disease-carrying mosquitoes in trial locations across north Queensland.

The experiment, conducted by scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and James Cook University (JCU), targeted Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which spread deadly diseases such as dengue fever and Zika.
In JCU laboratories, researchers bred almost 20 million mosquitoes, infecting males with bacteria that made them sterile. Then, last summer, they released over three million of them in three towns on the Cassowary Coast.
    The sterile male mosquitoes didn't bite or spread disease, but when they mated with wild females, the resulting eggs didn't hatch, and the population crashed.
    "The invasive Aedes aegypti mosquito is one of the world's most dangerous pests," said CSIRO Director of Health and Biosecurity Rob Grenfell in a statement, describing the experiment as a victory.
    "Although the majority of mosquitoes don't spread diseases, the three mostly deadly types -- the Aedes, Anopheles and Culex -- are found almost all over the world and are responsible for around (17%) of infectious disease transmissions globally."
    The successful experiment offers a potential new solution against diseases which infect millions every year.
    Many mosquito-spread diseases are difficult to treat. Some don't have effective vaccines, pesticides can be unsustainable, and methods such as clearing standing water are inefficient against mosquito breeding rates.
    The Zika virus is an infamous example. Its explosive outbreak in 2015 infected millions worldwide, causing babies to be born with neurological disorders. Researchers raced to develop a vaccine, and many are still conducting trials.