Mosquitoes are the worst.
They’re a complete waste of biomass and they’re annoying.
And now, private companies want to decimate the mosquito population
by releasing millions of modified mosquitoes into the wild.
Mosquitoes are one of the deadliest animals on earth.
The World Health Organization’s 1996 World Health Report said
2.7 million deaths annually could be pegged to those suckers.
It’s since dropped, but solid numbers are hard to find,
with some saying it’s now only several hundred thousand, which is still a lot.
Of course, mosquitoes don’t kill people directly.
Nobody’s ever been sucked bone dry by a swarm of mosquitoes
outside of the B-movie horror script I’m writing.
Mosquitoes kill so many people, because they’re carriers of diseases
like malaria, dengue, and zika.
They’re also really hard to control.
We can’t just pesticide them into oblivion
because we’ll kill a lot of other bugs indiscriminately and damage the ecosystem.
And we can’t just eliminate where they breed because they breed in standing water.
We can’t just drain every puddle, everywhere.
It’s totally impractical.
So we need a different approach.
A couple different companies have come up with basically the same idea.
Verily, is owned by Alphabet, Google’s parent company,
and Oxitec is owned by a biotech firm in Virginia, called Intrexon.
Verily had the idea to breed their own mosquitoes of the species Aedes aegypti,
the ones that carry a lot ofthese diseases that infect humans.
Their mosquitoes aren’t like wild mosquitoes,
because they carry a bacteria called Wolbachia,
It’s naturally occurring bacteria and found in up to 60% of insect species,
but, interestingly, not usually in Aedes aegypti.
Verily’s plan is to condition the bacteria to live in the mosquitos
and then infect a bunch of males with it.
Then, they want to release these male Wolbachia-mosquitoes by the millions.
But don’t freak out. Hang on a sec.
When the wolba-squitoes are released into the wild,
they still go out and try and get busy,
but the bacteria renders their sperm incompatible with the non-infected female’s eggs.
Get enough males who are firing blanks
and you can nearly wipe out the next generation,
reducing mosquito populations and thereby infection rates!
Ok, so here’s why you shouldn’t freak out by the release of millions of mosquitoes,
it doesn’t mean more itchy-time,
Little mosquito-101: Males don’t bite, only the females do.
So, the other biotech company Oxitec, has also created male mosquitoes.
Their mosquitos do grow up and hatch, but they don’t live long enough to breed for themselves,
which causes populations to drop.
Oxitec公司在巴西 巴拿马 开曼群岛
Oxitec has released their brand of mosquito
in areas of Brazil, Panama, and the Cayman islands,
which caused the local mosquito populations to nosedive, sometimes by as much as 90%.
However, when Oxitec tried to release their mosquitoes in Florida in 2016,
they hit a stumbling block.
Some local residents didn’t want them, and campaigned vehemently against them,
because unlike Verily’s mosquitoes, which again, are infected with bacteria,
Oxitec’s are genetically modified.
One commonly cited fear was that a person who is bitten by a GMO mosquito
would be harmed by the added DNA, which is not how any of this works.
The genetically modified mosquitoes are male, so again, they don’t bite,
and the offspring they make don’t reach an age where they could bite and they also can reproduce.
But even if they did bite you,
there’s never been a case of a mosquito gene by itself harming a human.
Oxitec eventually did release their mosquitoes in Florida,
但由于公众对“基因” “改造” 词汇的不信任
but because of public mistrust of the words “genetically” and ”modified,”
Verily’s Wolbachia infected buzzers may be the method that wins the public over.
But both of these methods aren’t long term solutions.
They’ll temporarily cause the population to drop a lot,
but over time the mosquitoes will come back.
Interestingly, once scientists infected mosquitoes with Wolbachia,
remember not something that would normally happen,
they found a beneficial side-effect,
The wolba-squitoes are a bad hosts for the dengue virus!
For some reason, if a wolba-squito was also infected with dengue,
the virus just didn’t replicate very well, and scientists are still trying to figure out why.
This means if scientists infect whole species with wolbachia,
they could knock back dengue!
But then, the male wolba-squitoes could breed with the female wolba-squitoes,
and we’re back to square one with everything that’s not dengue.
Even still, all these solutions are being explored
to try and stop this stupid deadly insect from killing people all over the world.
Maybe someday, they’ll all have wolbachia,
which would stop dengue,
and we’ll have another way to make some of them sterile!
either way, mosquitoes suck.
Mosquitoes are such pests,
it’s tempting to just wipe them out forever ,right?
but what kind of impact would that have on the environment?
Natalia Reagan and I talk about it right here.
So how do you feel about this?
Would you be cool if a company decided to release millions of mosquitos in your neighborhood?
Let us know in the comments.
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