A Cheaper Way to Stop Malaria?

(Photo: Colonel Wildturkey)

Scientists are working on genetically altering bugs  to eliminate the spread of diseases like malaria and the West Nile virus. A  Pacific Standard article describes the research:

Some researchers, including the Australians and groups at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, are smuggling a hitchhiking bacteria into the dengue-carrying mosquitoes that prevents them from passing on the virus. A British team is tinkering with DNA to either significantly reduce the lifespan of malaria-carrying mosquitoes (known as Anopheles) or kill females when they are just embryos. Either method would cause a population crash. In James’s lab in Southern California, scientists are working on similar techniques.

What these methods all share is the promise of blanket protection: they can theoretically kill or disable mosquitoes that insecticides miss—bugs nesting in hidden pools of water, for instance, or that lay eggs in storm drains or flower pots. What’s more, bioengineering bugs is relatively cheap and doesn’t require toxic pesticides.

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  1. Ryan says:

    As an economist I assume you’re familiar with hidden costs right?

    Bio engineering disease carrying insects? What could go wrong?

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  2. Char says:

    I wonder whether it destroys whole ecosystem. It can be that mosquitoes eat other harmful bacteria.

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  3. Ben says:

    I saw an intriguing idea in a Sci-Fi novel, where the problem escalated in the southeast US, and they ended up with a “vaccine” that made human blood poisonous to the mosquitoes. I find that more plausible than genetic manipulation, but those scientists are a crafty bunch, so who knows.

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  4. Christina says:

    Have the effects of a lower mosquito population been studied? What about the wildlife that relies on the mosquitos as nourishment, often the only form of protein available to them? What exactly is the infected mosquito population in relation the to the healthy mosquito population? This could have adverse effects on the entire eco system and us too.

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