In trying to curb malaria, biologists and epidemiologists have pulled some dirty tricks on mosquitoes (some quite literally dirty; remember the dirty sock trap from last week?). But after all the genetic tinkering to make mosquitoes disease resistant and the laser and nano-attacks that kill the insects on the wing, this one might be the meanest of all: a genetic trick that blocks mosquitoes' ability to digest blood.
Not that we're taking the mosquitoes side or anything like that--we don't like them either, especially the malaria- and yellow fever-bearing bugs--but just imagine: You've just come back from your local haunt with a belly full of your favorite comfort food, when suddenly you find your self doubled over, bloating, and dying. It's no way to go.
Nonetheless, it could make for an effective means of thinning out mosquito populations, at least among the females that carry the malaria parasite (and also handle the more important part of the breeding process). Mosquitoes generally feed on nectar, but when it's time to breed the females need protein. That means blood, which digests a bit differently than other stuff. To digest blood, mosquitoes need to produce a certain enzyme in their guts. Researchers simply switched off the genes that lead to the production of those enzymes, and let nature take its course.
The result for the mosquito is not good. After ingesting blood, the clock begins ticking. The body can't handle what it's ingested, and the lack of those key enzymes causes the cells lining the mosquito's gut to begin to break down. Eventually, the ingested blood seeps into the mosquitoes body where it's not supposed to be. Within 48 hours, 90 percent of the bugs tested were dead after what must have been a slow, agonizing ordeal.
Of course, you have to find a way to deliver this genetic bomb to mosquitos besides individually injecting them with RNAi. That's the challenge going forward. If researchers can find a way to get their special recipe into a small molecule that could be sprayed on mosquito netting or packed into a pill, the next meals for many mosquitoes could be their last.
A fitting termination. Except then environmentalist would get all upset and put them on the endangered species list!
well, this may be one species the environmentalists wouldn't mind seeing eradicated. not only is nothing too heavily dependent on the mosquito, but but substitutes don't bite!
Very dumb comment, gizmowiz.
Greg_NJ, you're the dumb one for calling him on it. Gizmowiz has a good point. Environmental protection organizations are notoriously blindly retarded, sometimes to the point where they would probably care what happens to the Mosquito. I hate Mosquitoes; I say do-away with them. Come live in southwestern Wisconsin by the Mississippi River in the spring. You'd just love it when billions of them hatch in about a week's time! :P Now start talking some sense and contribute something useful to the comments area.
This seems like a bad plan. Genetic modification for the purposes of "safety" from mosquitoes that is. If we somehow modify the genes of mosquitoes in the wild, decimating their populations as such, would it not also decimate the food cycle of that area as well? Not only would the food chain be disrupted but the whole life cycle of the afflicted would be disrupted. Less mosquitoes = less things that thrive on them(spiders and frogs come to mind off of the top of my head). If you radically change something, an equally radical change will go down, and frankly these scientists don't seem to be very far sighted in their vision. It seems like a great idea but in reality, could have devastating effects that could have far reaching and unseen consequences. Just saying...
I agree with TheBaldFish. Also, I think researching means to exterminate a specie just because it spreads viruses is not the way to go about preventing the spread of diseases. Certain previous comments imply that mosquitoes are useless in the intricate web of life which to me is ignorance. Keep searching for a cure; that's the way to go.
Its hard to imagine eliminating a species without consequences and you make a great point. Scientists have done lots of research and come to the conclusion that eliminating mosquitoes would not have these negative effects. Bloodsucking mosquitoes make up a very small percentage of similar insects. We only notice them more because they suck. They seek us out. I would think the chemicals we use to kill all these things year after year is worse on the environment. I think the dramatic over detailed story got to ya.
I highly doubt humans could put a serious dent in the mosquito population ANYWHERE.
If you didn't already know, insects are the largest species of animals on the planet. There's a reason why they're prevalent everywhere on the planet (except for Antarctica). They know HOW to survive.
We don't need to eliminate all the mosquitoes, but just enough to where they aren't spreading diseases left and right.
Even if they did manage to kill all the mosquitoes in an area for 10 years, if they stopped "treatment" for even just a single season, they'd be back in full force the next season.
Problem with removing a species from an ecosystem is that you can never really predict the consequences or the outcome.
You can never predict what will happen next, some other species might be forced to adapt as a consequences. This has the potential to lead to a much worse result compared to living with the mosquito.
I am allergic to mosquitos, so I too would like to see them disappear. But at the same time one needs to think about the future, what might/can happen and logically what the best option is and not just "what we can do".
Genetic modification is strong enough to kill a species.
Strong enough to kill species yes, but when they kill the females just before they try to reproduce - and thus spread said modification, I doubt it'll spread far.
I do not like people getting sick by mosquitoes. Squish the stupid bugs.
If you could make an RNAi formula for misquito's that is impermeable to cells in the human body you could inject this into people in places with a mosquito problem. It would circulate through the blood stream where mosquito's would pick it up.
And we won't know the consequence..
Mosquitoes will evolve to eat something else instead and we don't know YET what... they might start feeding on skin, brain matter.. they might go inside human body..
or they might go extinct...
Get rid of them!!! LOL @ kamydon and the feeding on brian matter! Next we might suspect a possible zombie out break or the start of vampiers due to a human genetic mutation as a result of the modified DNA corrupting human DNA. Stop watching so many movies.
I agree that a cure would be a better option but people are dying RIGHT NOW no thanks to malaria and no thanks to the cause of spread by misquitos. Besides, getting bit by them sucks.
Extinction is an ongoing natural process. The rate of extinction is proportional to the rate of change in the environment. As the environment changes, old species whose designs are now inappropriate are extinguished, and new species whose designs are better-suited to the current environment appear. "99% of all species ever lived on this planet in the last three and a half billion years went extinct - extinction is the rule, not the exception" - historyofgeology.blogspot.com/2011/03/anthropocene-and-sixth-extinction.html
We are currently in the Anthropocene era of extinctions, the sixth major period of heightened extinction activity. It is characterized by the advent of modern humans, and as a result of the rise of humanity the environment is changing. Old species incompatible with humanity (e.g., mosquitoes, cockroaches, ticks, etc.) will - and should - be extinguished during this period. New species will - and should - arise which do not conflict with humanity.
The extinction process will undoubtedly cause some short-term turbulence along the way - the loss of a species will cause knock-on effects as the food web and other ecological systems adjust to the absence of a species. But the ultimate result is a strongly positive one, the construction of a modernized environment that is fully compatible with humanity.
The problem with this plan is that it is too deadly. You have to infect ALL targeted mosquitoes at the same time for it to work. If a few survive, they will repopulate after the others have died.
If they want to employ a genetic bomb, they need to make it so that it takes many generations to come into effect. That way it has time to spread throughout the population. You still want to infect as many mosquitoes as possible in the beginning. If you do it right, the bomb will be a permanent fixture in the mosquitoes gene pool, until it eventually becomes extinct.
We probably don't have to make mosquitoes extinct to make diseases like malaria and dengue history. These insects are just flying syringes that spread deadly parasites from human to human. Anywhere malaria is endemic, there is a large pool of infected human. In these places, merely suppressing the mosquito population, while at the same time treating those suffering the disease, can reduce the pool of infected humans to the effect that the remaining mosquitoes will no longer carry the parasites.
This was how the use of DDT managed and other measures to eradicate malaria in some parts of the world (islands especially)actually worked. Mosquitoes still fly around,but they no longer carry the parasites because the pool of infected humans has been reduced to zero.
The plan just won't work. The genes proposed are so deadly, that they will be quickly removed from the pool.
Besides, the mosquito dies AFTER it bites and infects.
I like this, but wouldn't it be better if we figured out an way to let female mosquitoes feed in an manner similar to that of male mosquitoes [pollen and nectar] which then could also help with solving the "bee disappearance" problem by pollinating plants [and not stinging humans]?
You kill the mosquitoes and then everything that eats them dies, and then everything that eats those animals die and so on.
I don't mean this to come across as harsh, but almost none of the people commenting so far know jack spit about biology. Mosquitos are not a "species". There are 3500 species of mosquito across 41 different genera. Most of these are harmless to humans and therefore would not need to be "eradicated". One genus, anopheles, spreads malaria. Another, the Aedes, spreads Dengue, Yellow fever, etc.
Based on this alone, could people please do a few second of research before just cluttering the comments section with complete blithering and garbage. Yes, we're talking to you Bubba, but you're not the only one. Of course we all make casual mistakes from time to time, but some of you guys are worse than my freshmen. The quality of comments has really gone down hill in the last month or so. Maybe it's because school is out.
That said, not all "environmentalists" think the same way. Again mosquitos are not a species, so would not be covered by endangered species rules, which only apply in the US anyway, where there are relatively few dangerous types of mosquitos, compared to tropical areas of the world. Previous eradication efforts against mosquitos have proven that they are far more difficult to kill off than one might hope, though many strategies and new types of research are being pursued to manage them. For homework, research some of those efforts. I have heard of at least a dozen, and I am no export. If you have not heard of any then you need to read more and comment less.
Some of the commenters are quite right that eradicating something like the mosquito completely, if we could do it, would likely have major unforseen and unintended effects. Fortunately, we wouldn't be able to do that easily. In general, in biology we say that "you can't change just one thing" in an ecosystem. Some times little changes cascade through the system, producing complete havoc.
Noting that, yes, it would be theoretically possible to design viruses that targetted specific kinds of disease carrying mosquitos. In general, many pests might eventually be controlled by tailor-made viral infections. If course, this approach would not be without potential dangers.
I have two trains of thought on this paradox.
1. who needs mosquitoes and the things that eat them or the things that eat them,, nad them, and them... well you know..
infact how many animals does the human race need on its planet? how many animals could we do without? millions and still survive.... let's see.... well you can leave the oceans, we live on land.. so all that's not even worth debating... on land though.. keep cows, pigs, chickens, turkey, deer, bear, moose, caribou(reindeer), seals, otters, beaver, rabbit, etc(trapping animals) , apex hunters like wolves, tigers, lions to stop disease. there done. get rid of the rest. humans don't need any insects, nor do any of the animals we require need insects... don't need anithing like lizards or frog.. no reason to keep them other than the novelty of it(so they're gone!) ... well you get the picture.
2. the other train of thought... the world would be one boring ass place if we did away with every little animal that we don't need. like the world Vincent enters in Gattaca or something.... who the F would want to live there!
... where i live the local shops sell novilty coffee mugs with "the national bird of, of the official bird of..." and a picture of a mosquito on it. ok sure, west nile is a small risk, but if you start killing off the mosquitoes and blackflies(the real ones that are terrible) then what the heck are the dragonflies going to eat? and who the heck doesn't think a dragonfly is badass?!?! .. everyone loves dragonflies...
.. ok nuke the african mosquitoes and problem solved right? .. but couldn't you also just say.. ok nuke the african people and problem solved too right? no more people dying from mosquitoes, right?? people are right, you kill of the mosquito and everything else get affected, plus once you go down that road.. what's next? .. you change ONE species and you modify a hundred.
Here's an idea - vaccinate people with the RNAi virus. With it swimming around dormant in our bloodstreams, mosquitoes that decide to suck our blood will get it and die, and those that avoid humans (for any reason) will survive, and pass on the tendency to avoid humans. In this way, we would actually breed the mosquito population against biting humans. There's no effect on mosquito populations, and everyone's happy, right?
There goes the bug zapper firework show! Oh, by the way shut up Greg_NJ! Gizmowiz and Buzzkut7 are right.
@gps93...you just joined the dumb as# club with bubba
Although this does nothing to advance the conversation it is interesting to note that because of my near double platelet count mosquitoes die shortly after drinking my blood.