We are excited to announce that the Verily Debug team is starting a collaboration with the BugOut program in the British Virgin Islands. BugOut is a community-driven vector control initiative with the mission to reduce Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the Territory. Aedes aegypti is invasive in the BVI and is both a vector of dengue, Zika and chikunguyna diseases, and a significant nuisance pest. The BugOut program is managed by Green VI, a BVI-based non-profit that works on environmental programs including waste management and environmental education.

BugOut’s mission to reduce Aedes aegypti mosquitoes ties in with Green VI’s other environment-focused initiatives, and piggybacks off the waste management effort to clean up neglected containers and piled trash that become breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Through targeted education, data-driven field work, and a consistent community presence, Green VI’s BugOut has successfully reduced mosquito breeding sites by 50% over the past 5 years. Debug is partnering with BugOut to launch the next phase of their program to further reduce Aedes aegypti mosquitoes using a Wolbachia-based incompatible insect technique (IIT). We are excited to be on board and looking forward to working on a unique and synergistic approach to mosquito control.

The Debug-BugOut partnership is launching as BugOut Wolbachia and combines Debug’s expertise in Wolbachia-male releases with BugOut’s ongoing efforts to rid the community of larval breeding sites. We will use our combined sets of tools to suppress Aedes aegypti on BVI in a way that follows Green VI’s environmentally-conscious and community-driven mission.

We will spend the next several months supporting Green VI’s BugOut team and their community representatives as they evaluate how to integrate a Wolbachia-male Aedes aegypti release program into their toolkit. Our BugOut Wolbachia collaboration started collecting data on the existing mosquito population on Virgin Gorda in February 2022. We have begun engaging with the community to share knowledge of how Wolbachia works and how it can be used to reduce mosquitoes and hopefully mosquito-borne disease in the BVI. We have also been working with the community on preliminary studies of released Wolbachia male mosquitoes to evaluate their ability to survive and disperse in the field. Virgin Gorda will be the first island in the BVI to pilot the BugOut Wolbachia program as we learn and adapt our methods to match the unique needs of the local community and mosquito population before potentially scaling to other parts of the Territory.

We look forward to the start of a shared venture in reducing Aedes aegypti on Virgin Gorda (and beyond!) with BugOut Wolbachia. Fewer mosquitoes in the BVI will help reduce the incidence of mosquito-borne diseases but also promises to reduce nuisance biting, enhance tourism, and diversify the BugOut toolkit with an additional non-toxic, eco-friendly approach to mosquito control.