Viral BioEngineering … Kill All Mozzies?

Of all the animals on earth, I think that I could definitely live without mosquitoes.  What do you think?

Mosquitoes account for many deaths attributed to malaria and dengue fever among others.  Imagine the problems we would have if a mosquito bite could transmit HIV/AIDS which is a blood carried disease?  Fortunately the HIV virus cannot live in the gut of a mosquito.

Over the years, there have been many ways humans have tried to minimize the effects of mosquitoes.  DDT was originally developed as a means to fight them.  Today still in may tropical places there is weekly fogging for them, like right outside my apartment in Singapore every Monday afternoon.

Another way that today is being tried is to release genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes.  The way this works is that only male mosquitoes are released and they seek out female partners with which to mate.  As they GM males mate successfully, then the female lays eggs that hatch in to non-viable adult mosquitoes which die before they can fly.  An experiment using these in Haiti caused the mozzie population there to drop temporarily by 80%!

So here is my question.  Suppose that instead of causing the female to lay eggs that will never grow into adults, instead a GM mosquito male was developed which when it fertilizes a female, she only lays eggs that produce viable adults which are only male and with the same capabilities as their Dad’s?

In this case, what would happen is that the population of male mosquitoes would balloon up to the point where every female would probabilistically mate with such a male and soon there would be no female mosquitoes at all.

Did you know that the Hawaiian Islands did not have mosquitoes until there were brought there by English ships?  How idyllic!  It could be that way again.

If you can invent such a GM mosquito male, release even one that mates and it multiplies for a few weeks, then probably in less than 3 months you would absolutely wipe out all mosquitoes there and be back to where you were 500 years ago.

Now the question is should we do this?  And can it be done?


Posted in Essays, Green Perspectives, Spiritual Threads

  1. Gami Maislin says:

    LOVE THIS. Also makes me wonder, where do mosquitos fit into the natural animal/forest lifecycle, and how would that lifecycle be affected if all mosquitos died off?

  2. Bob Havlen says:

    Eliminating all malarial mozzies would be fine, but you would get lots of arguments about eradicating ALL mozzies. Mosquitoes are the main diet of many bird species as well as bats. Additionally, at least in Alaska, mozzies serve the vital and useful function of pollinating lots of plants. Honey bees are in short supply above mid-Canadian latitudes, and mosquitoes are willing pollinators.

  3. Gami Maislin says:

    Bob, thanks for the painting the big picture!

  4. James Chan says:

    I live on the 2nd floor and keep an electric mosquito racquet for the sole purpose of zapping mozzies. Pandora should never have opened her box.

    Wonderful idea, and I do think it will happen, except that we humans will get all caught up in the social/nature ramifications. Best if a rouge bio-scientist does this out of his/her home lab and release it without publishing any patents.

    I’d buy this person a beer every day for the rest of my life.

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