Using AI technology to suppress the Aedes aegypti mosquito population in Singapore

Today, at the Fifth Singapore International Dengue Workshop (SIDW), the National Environment Agency(NEA) announced that Verily have become a partner in Project Wolbachia – Singapore, a multi-year research program founded and led by Singapore’s NEA. Verily is excited to bring the Debug Project’s technology to the Phase 2 field study of Project Wolbachia – Singapore, which has already shown indications that a Wolbachia-based sterile insect technique may be successful in suppressing the Aedes aegypti population in Singapore’s urban environment.

One of the unique challenges of deploying the sterile insect technique in Singapore is effectively distributing sterile, male mosquitoes across the many high-rise apartment complexes that fill its landscape. In Singapore, as in many other dense, urban environments, Aedes aegypti breed in clean, stagnant water found in planters, vases and other containers in the hallways and homes within multi-floor buildings. To tackle this challenge, we have designed a new automated release system, contained within a 1.3m x 1m cart, lightweight enough to be pushed by an individual. With this new release device, we can precisely control the distribution of sterile, male mosquitoes within the corridors of the structures. Additionally, Project Wolbachia – Singapore will employ our mosquito sex-sorting technology, which has been successfully used in Debug Fresno and Debug Innisfail to separate male and female mosquitoes using a computer vision algorithm and artificial intelligence. Our team of scientists and automation specialists look forward to collaborating with NEA to drive the science and technology of the sterile insect technique forward.

This is an exciting time for the Debug team as we enter into a new region of the world, which challenges us to consider new ecologies, mosquito behavior, and human environments. With our first field study, Debug Fresno, launching just a year and a half ago, we continue to move forward into new environments, representative of areas where dengue, Zika, and other mosquito-borne diseases commonly spread. We look forward to all we will learn in this new region and to taking another step in realizing Debug’s mission to reduce the devastating impact that disease-carrying mosquitoes inflict on people around the world.