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Steam Autoclaves for Innovative Life Science Research: Helping Verily “Debug” Singapore’s Metropolises

Snakes, spiders, and sharks consistently top the list of most feared animals on earth, but the deadliest, by a wide margin, is the mosquito. Mosquitos are responsible for at least one million deaths each year—making mosquito-based deaths twice as common as homicide and two hundred thousand times more common than deadly shark attacks.  

There are more than 3,500 different mosquito species world wide and just one of them—Aedes aegypti—carries the diseases (primarily dengue fever, Zika virus, yellow fever, and chikungunya) that cause most of those deaths. These diseases are especially dangerous because they lack effective vaccines or treatments, sickening hundreds of millions of people each year. Today, at least 40% of the global population are at risk of catching them from A. aegypti. And that number is climbing. According to the US EPA “Studies show that warmer temperatures associated with climate change can accelerate mosquito development, biting rates, and the incubation of the disease within a mosquito.”

Mosquito eradication programs are widely understood to be our best hope in reducing this global threat.

But traditional approaches to eradication are proving insufficient

with A. aegypti. Pesticides effective against A. aegypti accumulate dangerously in the environment and have been growing less effective over time as the mosquitos adapt. Other approaches, like clearing standing water and distributing mosquito nets for sleeping areas, help slow the spread of disease, but are by no means a solution, especially as populations grow and climate change plays to the advantage of mosquitos.

A New Approach Using an Old Strategy 

But there’s another approach, successfully used against other insect pests since the 1950s, called Sterile Insect Technique (SIT). With SIT, you raise a crop of sterile male insects and then release them in a given area. Male mosquitos do not bite and thus cannot transmit disease. Once commingled with the wild mosquito population, sterile males crowd out wild males, mating with wild females to produce generations of eggs that never hatch. 

Traditionally, it hasn’t been possible to use ZSIT against mosquitos, because mosquitos are so small and delicate. But over the past five years Verily’s Debug program has pioneered a new approach that uses automated rearing systems (i.e., robot mosquito mothers) and algorithmic sorting methods (to make sure you aren’t raising and releasing more potentially disease-transmitting females).

The Verily Debug approach is proving effective. In 2018, Verily partnered with Singapore’s NEA-EHI (National Environment Agency’s Environmental Health Institute) to work on their Wolbachia-Aedes Mosquito Suppression Strategy. This project specifically seeks to reduce cases of dengue fever in high density urban areas in Singapore (such as Tampines) by suppressing the mosquito population through SIT. As of 2022 Singapore’s NEA has recorded a 90% (or greater) mosquito reduction in project areas, with a corresponding 65 to 80% reduction in dengue fever cases.

Steam Autoclaves for Global Research

Priorclave recently supplied Verily’s Singapore cleanroom lab with a new 400 liter (630mm diameter) round chambered pass-through autoclave. This was a custom, vacuum-equipped, non-jacketed autoclave, built for easy compliance with the Singaporean Ministry of Manpower’s strict pressure vessel certification process and operation/maintenance requirements.

“We’re proud to be able to work with global research organisations like Verily in furthering their continuing work to improve human health,” notes Lee Oakley, Sales Director at Priorclave. “That’s especially the case when it comes to addressing a scourge like dengue, that disproportionately impacts some of the most vulnerable populations in the world.”

Because every Priorclave is custom-built, every Priorclave can be adapted to your specific needs—be they operational, physical, or regulatory. Does your research lab need an autoclave that can fit a special niche? Contact Priorclave today.