Reengineering Mosquitoes to Fight Diseases

Recently, I came across this interesting video. Usually when people ask you of the most dangerous animal you could think of, you would usually say a lion, a tiger or a cobra. But, have we ever thought about the puny little mosquito?

It seems that the mosquito is the most lethal animal the human race has ever seen, killing so many people such that the numbers are even greater than when we put together the number of people dead from plague or war! It does not usually cross our minds that the mosquito will ever pose such a fast growing threat, that people a century or just 50 years back would have never heard of: Dengue fever.

However, the advancement of bio-technology, has broken all barriers giving us a powerful weapon known as genetic engineering. This is video researchers from Oxford have researched for a decade to produce sterile male mosquitoes. They have used the 2 following facts to help them: 1) Male mosquitoes do not  and cannot bite, 2) Male mosquitoes are extremely fast in finding female mosquitoes which then leads to reproduction. Since female mosquitoes lay their eggs almost everywhere where there is clear and stagnant water, they can range being under your flowerpot at your house or even a small tray on a vehicle. This fact causes them to be easily transported which is exactly what we are witnessing now. The mosquito has spread from North Africa to almost 100+ countries around the world.

The option of genetically engineering male mosquitoes causing them to become sterile is simply powerful because, when the rapidly mate, their offsprings are unable to survive.

The pilot test regions have shown very good results. In areas with a population around 2000-3000, the population of mosquitoes has fallen by a whopping 85%. This promising result has allowed this technique to be utilized on a larger scale.

It is rather interesting how genetic engineering has provided us with so much power. However, any form of intervention with the forces of nature has to be cautiously dealt with. The same genetic engineering is a double-edged sword that will reward us only when used carefully and for rightful purposes.

Hope Dengue is eradicated soon.


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