TEST TUBE MOSQUITOS: THE END TO MALARIA?

There have been countless measures in recent years to eradicate malaria worldwide.   While all efforts provide some kind of help, malaria is still very much present in today’s world and is a killer of hundreds of thousands of people each year.  Although mosquito nets are available and medications exist that can treat malaria, these treatments are temporary and do not seem to be making the kind of dent that needs to occur in order to eliminate the disease.  Something new needs to be done.

Recently, scientists have begun experimenting by genetically engineering mosquitoes.  This “special” kind of mosquito is engineered to create offspring that die before they reach adulthood.  This means that they would be dead before they could spread diseases like malaria and dengue fever.  There has been some controversy surrounding this issue.  Many people feel that it is dangerous to allow these mosquitos to enter the ecosystem without knowing the consequences that may occur first.  Some environmental concerns have arisen, as well as weariness about how effective the mosquitos will actually be in ridding malaria.  Other people just do not feel safe with genetically engineered mosquitos flying around.  After all, once the mosquitos are let into the wild, they cannot be brought back.

A test study has already been carried out in the Cayman Islands and scientists hope to launch other experimental trials in Central and South America, as well as some parts of Asia.  Early results from the Cayman Island study have come back mostly promising.  However, one setback that did arise is that the male mosquitos that were genetically engineered were not nearly as aggressive as the wild ones to find mates. This brings about problems, considering the mosquitos need to procreate for this theory to work.  Only time can tell if the new breed of mosquitos will make a difference in fighting off diseases.

Although it seems cutting edge, if these test studies continue to show impressive results, I cannot help but think that people should consider allotting more aid money to this type of research instead of continuing with the same methods that we know have not been effective enough in eradicating the disease.  These genetically engineered mosquitos can potentially, if all goes as planned, kill off the entire species of mosquito that carry the malaria gene.  Maybe if this works, we can at least hit the Abuja targets that were not met in 2010, and aim for them by 2013!

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