Is centuries old mosquito scourge coming to an end soon?
A tiny creature with a foul and deadly mouth. The purring sound of its wings drives some people out of their minds as it causes sleep deprivation. Besides, it puts half a million people to death every year, most of them in Africa. Most of them children. Who is this terrorist? It is the mosquito. it is the female mosquito.
Around the world, there is a frentic race to suicide-bomb the three or so species of female mosquitoes that have caused relentless mayhem for centuries.
One of those efforts is at London’s Imperial College. After 11 years and over a $100m in grant money provided largely by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, two biologists-Austin Burt and Andrea Crisanti at the prestigious British institution have come up with a gene drive (genetic engineering) solution that will get rid of the deadly mosquitoes in a little over a decade if authorized by the governments of African countries.
The process involves genetically manipulating the hereditary factor of the male mosquitoes to propagate only male offsprings when they copulate with the deadly species of any female mosquitoes. The resulting males mosquitoes will neither bite nor transmit malaria. Ultimately, all deadly female species and their male conspirators will be wiped out of existence.
Of concern to some scientists is the environmental and ecological impact of this grand experiment. For instance, what happens to creatures that feed on the targeted mosquitoes? How will the experiment work in the wild? Some scientists argue that creatures that feed on mosquitoes have other choices that are even more nutritious. That the scoundrels have very little nutritional value. So, ecosystem concerns should not be an issue. Other scientists are saying that a little more time is needed to thorougly evaluate the global impact of wiping out an entire specie of an insect.
A ray of hope
Whereas most Africa countries are at sleep over what to do about the scourge of mosquitoes, a few are cooperating with researchers and are willing to make their countries a testing ground for deploying the innovative experiment in the wild. Burkina Faso, Uganda, and Mali have asked the researchers to bring the “suicide option” on for field test in about three years after a larger scope trial currently going on in Italy.
It is amazing though that those who do not suffer from malaria are the most concerned about it.