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Scientists Create Sperm-Free Mosquitoes to Prevent Malaria

Scientists Create Sperm-Free Mosquitoes to Prevent Malaria

Scientists Create Sperm-Free Mosquitoes to Prevent Malaria

Scientists hard at work at eradicating malaria have often focused on the malaria-carrying mosquito, creating solutions ranging from genetic modification to malaria-attacking fungi to stinky sock lures (and about a billion more).

 

Female mosquitoes mate only once in a lifetime, and then store the male’s sperm to be used as needed throughout the rest of her life. What’s important about the new findings, which appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, is the discovery that the females do not seem to distinguish between sterilized males and fertile males–they mate only once, either way.  A process that can sterilize males would thus result in a pretty serious decrease in the number of new mosquitoes.

 

Sterilization isn’t new, but it’s usually done via radiation, which tends to make male mosquitoes very weak and unable to take part in a “frenzied” mating behavior.  Scientists devised a way to inject mosquito embryos with a bit of RNA that disrupts one of the genes needed for sperm production, leading to healthy, but sterile, male mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes kill more humans every year than any other animal on the planet.  They do this through the spread of disease, malaria in particular.  In 2008, approximately 247 million people were infected with malaria and about one million of those individuals died.  Most of those deaths were African children.  Every 45 seconds a child in Africa is lost to malaria.  In fact about one out of every five childhood deaths in Africa are from malaria.  This disease has even been reported to account for a 1.3% drop in the GDP in the countries with the highest rates of infection.

ChrisB- While eradication of a species is never going to be the solution to a problem, this method seems a whole lot better than the indiscriminate spraying of pesticides.  Many other animals rely on the mosquito populations as a source of food, and it would be a mistake to disrupt the food chain too drastically.  However, conscientious efforts to control the population could reduce the suffering of people all over the world.  It could give millions of children a chance at life in the coming years.  I hope scientists will find that delicate balance, which will be of the greatest benefit to mankind and least detriment to mother nature.

 

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