US scientists have created a malaria-resistant, genetically-modified (GM) mosquito which they hope might displace its infectious counterpart if introduced into the wild. According to the BBC, the transgenic Anopheles mozzie - which boasts a gene that resists infection by the Plasmodium malaria parasite - is "better able to …
In an attempt to suppress malaria, we're risking a major disaster here.
Mosquitos have proven to be impossible to eradicate without major habitat destruction. So we engineer ones which breed better than the exisitng pest, don't currently carry malaria, then release them.....
Experience of previous methods of biologival control which have gone sadly wrong should tell these 'scientists' that an approach like this is high risk with serious consequences. A little mutation here and there in the modified Anopheles and we'll potentially have hordes of fluorescent mosquitos floating around the world, biting and breeding... Killer mosquitoes anyone?
Um... great for no maleria... er.. but...
> Simply put, the GM insects "had a higher survival rate and laid more eggs".
Is it just me, or does "more eggs" worry anyone else?
This is only a temporary solution
The genetic modification only means higher survival rates for the mosquitos in an infected environment. This allows their number to rise above the unmodified ones. But as soon as this happens the environment will be relatively clean from the disease and their number will drop, increasing the relative number of traditional mosquitos, which results in more infections, that again will help the modified mostquitos. This process will stabilize into a cyclical rise and fall of malaria cases. Essentially it's not a long term solution, unless human activity artifically keeps up the level of malaria cases until all normal mosquitos are replaced.
An alternative solution would be to vaccinate all existing mosquitos against malaria.
I'd be more concerned if they demonstrated a high egg yield in the non-malaria infected tests. Surely this just indicates that the Malaria resistant species breed "more" than the control species when exposed to malaria.
Imagine kicking back on the lanai at sunset. You're gently sipping your beverage of choice and as dusk falls you begin to realize the glow you see isn't the bugzapper but a swarm of "skeeters" eager to dine on your tender juices. The next morning you have stories of tiny flying aliens with glowing eyes eviscerating cattle and children coming home covered in bites from the "fireflys" that they were playing with. Next, of course, will be the glowing wings of the hapless bats who ate the wrong mosquito and the end of the world follows soon thereafter.
No worries, fun for all. Now, where did I leave my gin and tonic?