Biotech Mosquitoes Fight Malaria


One of the weakest arguments made by people worried about man-made global warming is that humanity must cut back on carbon emissions to prevent the spread of tropical diseases.

Today malaria kills up to 2.7 million people annually. Mosquitoes genetically enhanced to resist the malaria parasite were created 7 years ago, but could not outcompete their wild relatives. Preliminary research by scientists at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland has now created malaria resistant mosquitoes that do outcompete wild mosquitoes.

The reproductive success of wild mosquitoes infected with malaria is reduced. The idea behind the new research is that since the biotech mosquitoes cannot become infected they win the reproductive race over wild ones. This would mean that once released, the population of malaria resistant moquitoes would increase relative to their malaria carrying cousins. If this strategy is successful, it would cut the chances that people will be bitten by malarious parasites.

Another strategy being explored by researchers at Imperial College in London is to create sterile male mosquitoes with flourescent testicles. Releasing huge numbers of these sterile males to mate with wild female mosquitoes would reduce the number of eggs laid.

Pursuing these types of anti-malaria efforts will save far more people from disease than whatever we decide to do about global warming will.

Research discussed in this article in the Times (London).