African Superbugs to the Rescue!

"Brother, can you spare a malaria pill?"

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The phone rang in my room at the Seronera Wildlife Lodge in the Serengeti. It was the early days of a group trip to Tanzania and Kenya, but one woman in my group had already discovered the joys of East African baggage handling in Nairobi, where her bags had been misplaced along with those of another member of the group.

"I'm collecting Malarone for the destitute," she said cheerfully. Like most of the people on the trip, she had gotten a prescription for protective anti-malaria medication from her doctor before starting out the trip. Hers had been in the lost bag, so she was looking to replenish her supply.

"No problem," I said, "My doctor prescribed me a couple of extras. I'll bring them down at breakfast."

This transaction—handing off a few spare pills to reduce the threat of a terrible illness—seems so simple. So why can't we manage it on a large scale? Why can't we figure out how to put pills in the hands of the hundreds of millions of people in Africa who fall ill after the bite of a malaria-carrying mosquito every year, or the one million people who die from the disease, nearly all of them children?

The drugs that my group carried were state of the art, with a price to reflect that, retailing at a little under $75 a week. Lariam, the generation of pills before Malarone, caused strange hallucinogenic dreams (actually, my doctor asked if I'd prefer the Lariam, since "some arty types like that sort of thing." I politely declined.) And the old, pennies-a-day quinine-based staples were no longer effective in parts of Tanzania. Too bad, because there's nothing like a truly medicinal gin and tonic (tonic contains quinine).

The pills require vigilance-they must be taken every day and for 7 days after leaving the malarial area (not that most affected people have the luxury of ever "leaving the malarial area"). Likewise, other methods of prevention, like bed nets and interior insecticides require upkeep. Many of the current crop of nets must be resprayed with insecticide at regular intervals, and they must be kept free of holes and tucked tightly around the edge of the mattress. (The first night I used a bed net, I managed to trap a mosquito inside with me.)

But in the end, as simple as it seems like it ought to be, we can't stockpile enough pills, we can't get them in the right hands, there aren't enough bed nets, and they aren't being used with enough consistency, insecticide use is patchy, and use of the most effective insecticide, DDT, is controversial-controversial enough to be banned in some of the worst off countries.

One might think, then, that a new, technological solution, one that required no upkeep and no individual responsibility, would be welcomed.

Researchers have recently conscripted a gene for a toxin from a sea cucumber, of all things, in the fight against malaria. Inserting this gene into mosquitoes creates a toxic environment for the malaria-causing parasite that usually lives happily in a mosquito's gut. These tweaks make it impossible for malaria to be passed from human to human via mosquito.

In order for this scheme to work, the modified mosquitoes have to outbreed normal mosquitoes in the wild. This has been the main challenge for scientists thus far. But the current generation proves to be surprisingly robust in a caged trial, dominating the mosquito population at 70 percent in the ninth generation when feeding on malarial blood. In fact, killing the malaria-causing parasite may actually give the genetically-modified mosquitoes an edge by allowing them to live longer and lay more eggs, according to the scientists at the Malaria Research Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

"This fitness advantage has important implications for devising malaria control strategies," they write in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The lab-made mosquitoes aren't quite good enough yet-they don't outbreed regular mosquitoes on a diet of regular blood. But the concept has undeniable appeal, right? Let a few genetically freakish mosquitoes into the population and then sit back and watch as they outbreed their treacherous, malaria-carrying brothers and sisters.

So far, the criticism has been fairly muted, and the researchers themselves are being cautious and circumspect, saying that it could be as long as ten years from now before release into the wild is a possibility.

"What we did was a laboratory, proof-of-principle experiment; we're not anywhere close to releasing them into the wild right now," said study co-author Dr. Jason Rasgon from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

"There is quite a lot of research that needs to be done, both in terms of genetics and the ecology of the mosquitoes; and also research to address all the social, ethical and legal issues associated with releasing transgenic organisms into the environment," he said.

But even with that cautious note in the air, many are already seeing visions of the worst possible outcome. "Once new species get out of their ecosystem and they are not kept in check by other processes that's when they start to cause mayhem," Deborah Long of Plantlife Scotland told the Guardian.

Respected groups like the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology are standing by previous statements[PDF] about the possible problems caused by GM insects. "The mobility and range of insects pose international regulatory challenges never faced with GM crops," they wrote in 2004.

In response to initial announcements about the modified mosquitos, the Guardian's James Randerson wrote "it will probably be the perception of risk rather than the actual risks that are important. GM-crops were scuppered in Europe by the what-if fears: in the end, the scientific assessment did not matter." Sadly, he's right.

Lots of study and lots of caution are appropriate, of course, but this is the beginning of storyline that is already too familiar. The logic of bans on DDT, pest-resistant GM crops, and other technological solutions to human problems will be applied here too, and Africa will suffer for our timidity.

When it came right down to it, no one on my trip probably needed the Malarone pills anyway. We had high concentration DEET insect spray in our bags and bed nets in our rooms. Yes, there were malaria warnings for both Tanzania and Kenya, but a downloadable detailed report from the CDC showed risk areas in more detail, and we weren't going to be in them, for the most part.

We were taking the pills as a luxury, our excess of caution born out of our excess of wealth, relatively speaking. I was bitten a few times on the trip, and the knowledge that I was drugged up stilled the alarm I might otherwise have felt. But all around me, I watched citizens of Tanzania and Kenya casually brush away mosquitoes that could have brought them low with a single bite. Even if I'd given away every pill in my stock, it wouldn't have made a dent.

Generosity amongst friends is not so easy to duplicate on the necessary scale, even with the riches of Bill Gates, and the charitable spirit of Mother Teresa. Other solutions are needed.

And while we worry about what might happen to the ecosystem if we release a mosquito with a small change in its genes, millions of people roll in their beds (or on mats on the floor), fevered and ill. We shouldn't release modified mosquitoes before they are ready. But when they are ready and the inevitable invocation of the precautionary principle comes, we should try to weigh the caution we are used to being able to afford against the real suffering of real people whose lives are so different from our own that it is difficult to comprehend.

Katherine Mangu-Ward is an associate editor of reason.

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  1. I welcome our Mosquito Overlords.

  2. Damn! Beat me too it…

  3. And I welcome the rock band known as the Mosquitoes to our island.

  4. I have to admit that I’m wary of this one. It’s one thing to raise the GM organism on a farm, and another to let it run wild. On a farm, you have control over the population. If it turns out to be dangerous, you stop planting the crop or letting the animal breed. In the wild, once you let it out you have no control.

    I don’t know that I’m against it, but it raises a different set of issues than GM organisms on farms.

    OTOH, I do admit that the human suffering at stake here is a pretty major factor to weigh.

  5. The fact is that introducing new species in order to change an ecological balance always has unintended consequences, and history is replete with instances where a new animal turns out to become a devastating pest.

    With that being said, malaria, along with the sleeping sickness carried by the tse tse fly are the major thing holding back agricultural development in Africa. In all likelihood these mosquitoes will be a boon.

    Of course the best solution is to cure the disease at the human level. Those $75.00 a week drugs would cost a lot less if patent laws were repealed.*

    *Many people fall for the fallacy that without patent laws there would be no research into drugs. Au contraire – research would still be conducted, funded primarily by charities who begged for R&D money from the population in precisely the manner that Easter Seals operates. And the drugs selected for manufacture would be selected primarily for efficacy and not for patentability as happens now. See

  6. I have to admit that I’m wary of this one. It’s one thing to raise the GM organism on a farm, and another to let it run wild. On a farm, you have control over the population. If it turns out to be dangerous, you stop planting the crop or letting the animal breed. In the wild, once you let it out you have no control.

    I don’t know that I’m against it, but it raises a different set of issues than GM organisms on farms.

    OTOH, I do admit that the human suffering at stake here is a pretty major factor to weigh.

    I confess that there’s a part of my brain that can imagine something like I Am Legend arising from this. A scientist played by Emma Thompson finds a miraculous cure for cancer in a genetically modified disease. Pretty soon, it turns into something even more horrible than cancer.

    I don’t mean to glorify the “precautionary principle” as it’s normally understood, though. That would be wrong.

  7. Ridding the world of malaria will increase greenhouse gases and cause more global warming.

    Bringing back smallpox will also help cool the planet.

  8. If they could just make em ta eat kudzu.

  9. I have to admit that I’m wary of this one.

    yyyeeeeeeessss!!!!!!

  10. Maybe they could engineer the 3 inch japanese hornet to only eat africanized bees and turn it loose in California and Arizonia.

  11. Oh, Dave, it’s so cute the way you take pride in things that you have fuck-all to do with.

  12. Let’s say someone invented a miniaturized self-replicating aircraft that could fly almost silently, seek out humans, drill through flesh and inject a parasite into the bloodstream that would multiply inside the person’s body, inflict terrible suffering and and kill within days.

    Imagine the outcry! Yet that nightmare exists right now. It’s called the Anopheles mosquito, and the parasite is called malaria.

    By some estimates, half of all the humans who have ever lived died of malaria. That’s 50 billion deaths, about as many deaths as would occur in 100 full-scale nuclear wars.

    Why do people worry so much about what could conceivably happen and yet ignore what is happening right now? Why would they ban DDT, by far the most potent weapon against the Anopheles mosquito, and, when a new way of sabotaging mosquitoes comes along, worry more about conceivable side effects than about tangible benefits?

    I’m on the side of the humans. How about you?

  13. Mick-

    You make darn good points. The only qualm is that we already know the mosquito is a good disease vector, and so we might want to give a lot of careful thought to improving the mosquito in a way that gives it a survival advantage. If nothing else, an engineered mosquito should be evaluated for its ability to transmit other diseases known to exist in the habitats where it would propagate. Including diseases that aren’t common in humans but are common in animals and have close relatives in humans.

    No, I’m not here to cry a river over an animal species that might be in jeopardy because of engineered mosquitos. But doing something that gives a survival advantage to a known disease vector seems, well, dangerous.

  14. In the wild, once you let it out you have no control.

    Which is why we have Killer Bees!

  15. thoreau,

    Don’t waste your breath arguing with Dave W. Over the past year or so, he has repeatedly demonstrated that he is impervious to reason. It’s like dealing with a two year old who is convinced that he is a superhero crime-fighter. The kindest, and least difficult, way to deal with such delusions is to humor the child while not actually letting them do anything that will hurt themselves. In Dave W’s case, you don’t even have to worry about the later.

    If Dave W wants to live in a fantasy land where he is a wise man whose opinions are sought out, then let him.

  16. TWC-

    Well, if these engineered mosquitoes get out of control, we’ll just need better bats. We can genetically engineer them to eat the super mosquitoes AND fight crime when a signal is lit.

  17. mick,

    There are quite a few instances where new species introduced to solve some problem caused even bigger ones. the rabbits in Australia, and the snakes in Guam come to mind. note these pests cause problems for humans, and that in hindsight the people livign in the affected areas wish that they had never been introduced. Of course, the guys who introduced the new species were thinking as you are; they saw a problem, had a solution and didn’t see the downsides as being significant. They weren’t evil men – they merely miscalculated.

    The mosquito is a dangerous creature. There will be unintended consequences to introducing a new variant that is malaria resistant. Now, it is likely that these unintended consequences will be minor. However, that does not mean we should bury our heads in the sand.

  18. In fact, killing the malaria-causing parasite may actually give the genetically-modified mosquitoes an edge by allowing them to live longer and lay more eggs, according to the scientists at the Malaria Research Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

    Oh, ok, then.

    Mick, take your miniturized aircraft, and modify it so it lives longer and breeds more. You seriously don’t see how people who are just as “on the side of the humand” as you are might consider that a bit dangerous?

    BTW, there is no DDT ban. There has never been a DDT ban. There is a ban on the agricultural, area spraying of DDT. And the reason for that is that using DDT that way…wait for it…causes mosquitoes that are immune to DDT to develop a survival and breeding advantage, thereby rendering DDT useless for protecting humans.

    It’s a nice story to tell yourelf that you, solely, are “on the side of the humans.” It’s the sort of thing a con man would tell you, so that you wouldn’t pay attention when someone points out a problem.

  19. Thoreau,

    I share your concern about genetically enhanced mosquitoes. There’s no question that we need to investigate the possible consequences very carefully.

    My concern is that in the present climate, the theoretical possibility that actions we take may cause harm seems to automatically carry more weight than the very tangible harm that can be caused by maintaining the status quo. This imbalance can cause real harm in real situations.

  20. I will say this: From what I know of other cases where new species have been introduced, I find it unlikely that the negative effects of a malaria-resistant mosquito would be worse than the negative effects of malaria. However, given the known ability of mosquitoes to spread disease, anything that gives a survival advantage to a mosquito should be considered with caution.

  21. Now, that said, this is a tremendously exciting line of research, which could yield amazing benefits.

    But think about something: the scientists researching this – scientists who are devoting their careers to it, who are presumably highly motivated to cure the terrible curse of malaria, and who stand to gain enormous personal and professional advantages should their research be successfully applied, are tagged by KMW as being overly cautious. She is critical that those scientists are applying too high a level of caution.

    Just think about that for a minute.

  22. tarran, the rabbit was actually not introduced to Australia as a solution to a problem. Although, I suppose not having small game to hunt might be considered a problem. They also now have foxes and deer as a result of the same “problem”.

    Now the Cane Toad on the other hand was introduced to solve a problem.

    As to the malaria-fighting mosquito, I think there maybe is a relevant precedent that ought to be considered.

    Sterile Fruit Flies have been used on many occasions to combat infestations of that nuisance. There have been several cockups where fertile flies were released resulting in well – you know.

    However they have generally been seen as effective and such potential problems should probably be viewed as cautions rather than absolute barriers.

  23. > It’s the sort of thing a con man would tell you, so that you wouldn’t pay attention when someone points out a problem.

    Joe,

    If you wanted to have a reasoned argument, I would have been happy to engage you. But since you choose to hurl insults, I choose to ignore you.

  24. If they could just make em ta eat kudzu.

    Sheep apparently love Kudzu. Then we can eat the sheep.

    Laaammmb….mmmmmm…mint sauce…yummmmm.

  25. Like I said above, I think what would be most reassuring would be to test this mosquito with other diseases known to occur in humans, animals, and plants in the regions targeted for release (as well as other regions that it might plausibly spread to). If the engineered mosquito is no more successful at propagating other diseases, then the risks seem low, and the likely benefits seem huge.

  26. I offered you a reasoned argument, Mick. You just decided to ignore it.

    I guess I’m just too gosh-darned against the humans for you to address any of this:

    Mick, take your miniturized aircraft, and modify it so it lives longer and breeds more. You seriously don’t see how people who are just as “on the side of the humand” as you are might consider that a bit dangerous?

    BTW, there is no DDT ban. There has never been a DDT ban. There is a ban on the agricultural, area spraying of DDT. And the reason for that is that using DDT that way…wait for it…causes mosquitoes that are immune to DDT to develop a survival and breeding advantage, thereby rendering DDT useless for protecting humans.

    Now, that said, this is a tremendously exciting line of research, which could yield amazing benefits.

    But think about something: the scientists researching this – scientists who are devoting their careers to it, who are presumably highly motivated to cure the terrible curse of malaria, and who stand to gain enormous personal and professional advantages should their research be successfully applied, are tagged by KMW as being overly cautious. She is critical that those scientists are applying too high a level of caution.

    Just think about that for a minute.

    You sit there and ask whether people who don’t immediately agree with you are for or against HUMANS, and now you are going to get all prissy about questioning people’s motivations?

    Sure. Whatever.

  27. Isaac B,

    If this could be solved with sterile mosquitoes, the issue would be a lot more clear-cut.

    But the point here is for the new mosquitoes to outbreed the old.

  28. Where’s the debate thread?

  29. “Many people fall for the fallacy that without patent laws there would be no research into drugs.”

    You’re missing the meat of the issue by resorting to absolutes.

    Nobody’s saying that without patent laws there would be “no research”. What I’m saying is that without patent laws there would be “significantly less” research expenditure on drugs.

    I’m not even saying that’s a bad thing. I’m entirely open to the argument that industry collectively over-invests in drug R&D.

    Here’s a question for you:

    Would you be okay with BigPhamaCorp protecting its profitability by keeping the formulation of its malaria cure a closely guarded trade secret (like the Coca-Cola formula), thereby earning monopoly profits until some competitor can successfully reverse-engineer their product, test it, and bring it to market? Or do the interests of public health trump the interests of shareholders?

  30. If the mutation gives it a survival advantage, maybe the researchers can give it another mutation that makes it weak to some other chemical? A sort of ‘off’ switch, just in case some other mosquito-transferred disease shows up. That would be ideal.

  31. What we really need are mosquitoes that are engineered to inject people with sweet sweet THC. Talk about a love bug…

  32. There will be unintended consequences to introducing a new variant that is malaria resistant.

    Could malaria conceivably adapt to the mosquitoes’ immunity?

  33. Yeah, no debate thread?

    Did Weigel finally snap?

  34. If the mutation gives it a survival advantage, maybe the researchers can give it another mutation that makes it weak to some other chemical? A sort of ‘off’ switch, just in case some other mosquito-transferred disease shows up. That would be ideal.

    Ooh….I like that!

  35. She is critical that those scientists are applying too high a level of caution.

    joe,

    You are putting words in her mouth. When KMW says “scientists are being cautious but environmentalists are overreacting,” you hear “KMW is skeptical that such caution is conducive to necessary progress in this field.” That is a perception, since it was never stated explicitly in the article. I heard, instead, that “KMW is giving more lip service to the environmentalists’ viewpoints than the scientists’, because it makes for a better article.” I’m not a fan of her science policy work, but you’re basically saying that she advocates removal of scientific ethics. I didn’t see such a thing advocated anywhere in the article.

  36. excimer,

    Sure, she pays some lip service to the caution exercised by the scientists, but here’s the key part: she trashes the very principle of caution that underlies both the scientists’ and the environmentalists’ wariness.

  37. Here, excimer, look at this passage:

    So far, the criticism has been fairly muted, and the researchers themselves are being cautious and circumspect, saying that it could be as long as ten years from now before release into the wild is a possibility.

    “What we did was a laboratory, proof-of-principle experiment; we’re not anywhere close to releasing them into the wild right now,” said study co-author Dr. Jason Rasgon from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

    “There is quite a lot of research that needs to be done, both in terms of genetics and the ecology of the mosquitoes; and also research to address all the social, ethical and legal issues associated with releasing transgenic organisms into the environment,” he said.

    But even with that cautious note in the air, many are already seeing visions of the worst possible outcome. “Once new species get out of their ecosystem and they are not kept in check by other processes that’s when they start to cause mayhem,” Deborah Long of Plantlife Scotland told the Guardian.

    There is literally no difference whatsoever between what the scientists’ who caution she endorses, and what the environmentalists are saying. She is not distinguishing them based on any difference in their position. And then she give us:

    Lots of study and lots of caution are appropriate, of course, but this is the beginning of storyline that is already too familiar. The logic of bans on DDT, pest-resistant GM crops, and other technological solutions to human problems will be applied here too, and Africa will suffer for our timidity.

    “Our timidity” being the caution expressed by the environmentalists…which is precisely the same thing as the caution expressed by the scientists.

    No, I don’t think she’s arguing for the removal of scientific ethics. I think she’s seizing on an opportunity to bash those nasty environmentalists, even if the concerns they are expressing are exactly the same as those that are being expressed by the scientists whose caution she endoreses.

    The fact that she seizes on the phoney, discreditted “DDT Ban” story as an example of her point just demonstrates this: the ban on DDT area spraying IS what the scientists wanted, and it didn’t cost anyone their lives. In fact, by preserving DDT’s usefulness as a malaria fighter, the end of practice has saved, and will continue to save, millions of lives. “The logic of the ‘DDT ban'” is exactly the logic of the scientists researching modified mosquitoes, and she is pretending it is not.

  38. Joe, repeat after me: “I am a big fucking douche”.

  39. You are a big fucking douche.

  40. I’ll give you this, “economist:”

    I do have a knack for flushing out c*nts like you.

  41. Don’t we libertarians and libertarian-leaning guys always note how government regulation on the economy has nasty unintended consequences? I see a lot of the same mechanisms in action here, which is why I’m very cautious, even though I acknowledge the potential.

  42. Taktix? | January 21, 2008, 8:33pm | #

    What we really need are mosquitoes that are engineered to inject people with sweet sweet THC. Talk about a love bug…”

    Taktix?
    I was thinkin maybe a kudzu/indica/peyote hybrid.

    For erosion control, of course. prolific, pretty and drought resistant.

  43. Is erosion the one where your eye pressure is too high?

    Because I’ve totally got that, too.

  44. gigglin till my face hurts joe

  45. Doctor, you’ve got to help me. I’m suffering from loss of apetite and the inability to discern song lyrics.

  46. So if we establish an anti-malarial mosquito population as an urban area defense against bugs in the surrounding boonies where the wild things are, we have to maintain the nice suburban mosquitoes with timely blood meals to assure their reproduction .

    Who wants to show a little backbone by volunteering to serve as Katharine’s stand-in?

    In fairness there are already places where people customarily park juicy goats outside their shuttered, but unscreened windows as a night long diversion

  47. Well, I plan to use mosquitoes as the vector for my new mind-controlling virus.

  48. Easy:

    A mosquito may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
    A mosquito must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
    A mosquito must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

  49. Here’s a question for you:

    Would you be okay with BigPhamaCorp protecting its profitability by keeping the formulation of its malaria cure a closely guarded trade secret (like the Coca-Cola formula), thereby earning monopoly profits until some competitor can successfully reverse-engineer their product, test it, and bring it to market? Or do the interests of public health trump the interests of shareholders?

    What a great question.

    I have absolutely no problem with that. If you want to sell something but keep how it works secret, you’re well within your rights. Of course you might have trouble finding a significant numebr of customers willing to ingest medicines where the contents were a secret, but if you can turn a profit doing that, more power to you.

    The point here is that nobody has a right to agress against others. If i patent a new type of plow, to enforce that patent, I have to attack any neighbor who wants to make a similar plow.

    Similarly under mandatory licensing, if I want to manufacture a drug someone else invented, I have to somehow force them through threats of violence to divulge how their medicine works.

    To me, the violence is
    a) unnecessary
    b) immoral,
    c) distorts the types of products that hit the market in a bad way.

  50. Didn’t read the preceding no doubt highly enlightening comments or the article. However, I welcome KMW disclosing all the costs of the venture, such as if things go wrong. And, I welcome her disclosing how exactly we could hold pimps (or pimpettes as the case may be) responsible should things go wrong.

    Or, is everything just fine and dandy just as long as some small set of people are making money?

    Someone should come up with a new name for Reason. “Cosmotarian”? No, that’s taken. How about, “Corporate Shill Monthly”?

  51. “Why would they ban DDT”

    In a nutshell, DDT was banned for political reasons, when a scumbag political appointee, pandering to the hippies, overruled the administrative judge at the EPA who’d actually seen all the evidence and decided that a ban wasn’t warranted.

    When you count the worst mass murderers in history, don’t forget Rachel Carson.

    -jcr

  52. “BTW, there is no DDT ban. There has never been a DDT ban.”

    Bullshit. If there’s no ban, then tell me where I can get some. I have an ant problem in my house, and I’d like to solve it once and for all.

    -jcr

  53. When you count the worst mass murderers in history, don’t forget Rachel Carson.

    Takes no prisoners. If JCR was president there wouldn’t have been no Gitmo. 🙂

  54. > If there’s no ban, then tell me where I can get some.

    Note this EPA press release: DDT Ban Takes Effect.

  55. What does a domestic ban on DDT use as pesticide have to do with worldwide malarial infections? Is there a big malaria problem in this country I haven’t heard about?

    The Wikipedia article on DDT is fairly interesting. For all I know, it was written by damned hippies, but it does appear to support joe’s claims, and contradict the claims of those contra-environmentalists who blame countless deaths on DDT bans. Specifically, the Wiki entry claims that DDT has never been banned for purposes of vector control, and that growing resistance to the chemical among mosquitoes makes DDT less and less viable.

  56. Anonymous coward – DDT has probably been somewhat underused because of popular resistance to it, but greater use would probably have led to greater resistance.

    It’s a complex picture – which is a real shame when you want to portray a dead scientist as a figure of Stalin-like evil.

  57. Sorry, my comment made zero sense.

    Try this:

    Anonymous coward – DDT has probably been somewhat underused because of (largely unwarranted) beliefs about its toxicity, but greater use would probably have led to greater mosquito resistance.

    It’s a complex picture – which is a real shame when you want to portray a dead scientist as a figure of Stalin-like evil.

  58. DDT FACTS:

    1) DDT was restricted to public health use only – in the USA – in 1972 – NOT BANNED here. Other countries have also severely restricted its use as in the US or totally banned it use in the 70s and 80s.

    2) Rachel Carson did NOT advocate the banning of DDT – she advocated for its restricted use only for public health, rather than its then main uses to spray for cotton pests or broadcast spraying on forests.

    3) DDT world consumption between 1971 and 1981 was 68,800 tons per year following its restriction in the US. THE US MAXIMUM USE PER YEAR WAS 36,000 TONS PER YEAR. ERGO…you could say MORE DDT WAS USED AFTER ITS USA USE WAS RESTRICTED THAN BEFORE.

    A large number of countries CONTINUE to use DDT to TODAY and I suspect total worldwide use is comparable or equal to use in the past, in countries OTHER than those in which it has been banned or restricted in use. Current use figures are hard to obtain because of this controversy but it produced today in a large number of countries other than the US like Mexico, India, Russia, China, South Africa, etc.

  59. Alan Schapira’s commentary on the WHO position is worth reading too…

  60. BTW, thoreau, the article is discussing the potential introduction of gene-modified EXISTING species – not NEW ONES.

    There are a number of Malaria vector mosquito species. Therefore genemods of each and all of the vectors would be needed and each must be tested. Multiple genemod species would need to be simultaneuosly introduced in some cases. Sounds overly complicated to me.

    I am skeptical that ANYTHING will come of this “discovery”- sounds like so many pie-in-the-sky biological control possibilities that fizzled so often in the past.

  61. Eventhough DDT is not banned, it was so politically charged and regulated that it was basically banned. I am always amazed at how enviromentalist never live up to the consequences of their actions. It is similar to the gas refinery debate. See article below.

    I love people who try to rewrite history.

    “But two months later, without even reading the testimony or attending the hearings, EPA administrator William Ruckelshaus overruled the EPA hearing officer and banned DDT. He later admitted that he made the decision for “political” reasons.

    “The effect of Ruckelshaus’s political decision was to thrust new anti-DDT groups (like the Environmental Defense Fund) into well-funded prominence; to remove DDT from the list of pesticides that U.S. agencies would fund abroad; and to increase the malaria death rates in tropical countries. The U.S. Agency for International Development stopped supporting programs involving DDT (and instead increased funding for birth control programs). Other industrial nations did the same.

    As a result, just as a few African nations and other tropical countries were on the verge of wiping out malaria, by using DDT to control the mosquito vectors that spread it, those programs were shut down. Countries could not afford to give up the funds for their health and development programs, from donor nations that now would not support DDT. Instead, they gave up DDT. The malaria-carrying mosquitoes were the immediate beneficiaries, and malaria soon became Africa’s largest killer, only more recently to be equalled by AIDS. There are an estimated 300-500 million new cases of malaria per year now, 90% of which are in Africa. There are 2.7 million deaths from malaria per year, mostly those of children under 5 years old.”

  62. Oh, Dave, it’s so cute the way you take pride in things that you have [nothing] to do with.

    ORLY?

    https://www.reason.com/blog/show/119218.html

  63. See article below.

    So you quote an article at us that comes from a LaRouche magazine that…

    …challenges the assumptions of modern scientific dogma, including quantum mechanics, relativity theory, biological reductionism, and the formalization and separation of mathematics from physics.

    We demand a science based on constructible (intelligible) representation of concepts, but shun the simple empiricist or sense-certainty methods associated with the Newton-Galileo paradigm.

    Good god alive.

  64. Though I did like this coinage from the article:

    The 1972 U.S. ban on DDT is responsible for a genocide 10 times larger than that for which we sent Nazis to the gallows at Nuremberg. It is also responsible for a menticide which has already condemned one entire generation to a dark age of anti-science ignorance, and is now infecting a new one.

    Menticide! Fantastic.

    Let’s all enjoy the conclusion together:

    To solve this worsening problem as a whole-a disgrace in face of the scientific achievements the world has made-we must reverse the entire course of the past 30 years’ policymaking and return to a society based on production, scientific progress, and rationality. The onrushing world depression crisis, demands a new FDR-style approach to economic reconstruction in the United States. The recognized spokesman for such a reform of our economic and monetary policies is the very electable candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination, Lyndon H. LaRouche.

  65. You’re right, I should have said, there is no DDT ban IN AFRICA.

    In a nutshell, DDT was banned for political reasons, when a scumbag political appointee, pandering to the hippies, overruled the administrative judge at the EPA who’d actually seen all the evidence and decided that a ban wasn’t warranted. See, I thought it had something to do with DDT-resistant malarial mosquitoes killing 1,000,000 people in Sri Lanka, exactly as Rachel Carson predicted.

    Great humanitarian John C. Randolph would have seen the same thing happen across the world. But hey, how ’bout them hippies?

    Rarchel Carson advocated for DDT to be used in exactly the manner now advocated by the people calling her a mass murderer. But, hey, hippies, huh?

    What’s the opposite of a “watermelon?” That’s what people repeating LaRouchite nonsense about DDT amount to.

  66. If the mutation gives it a survival advantage, maybe the researchers can give it another mutation that makes it weak to some other chemical? A sort of ‘off’ switch, just in case some other mosquito-transferred disease shows up. That would be ideal.

  67. If the mutation gives it a survival advantage, maybe the researchers can give it another mutation that makes it weak to some other chemical? A sort of ‘off’ switch, just in case some other mosquito-transferred disease shows up. That would be ideal.

    I meamt to post –
    Threadwinner, hands down.

  68. As someone who has actually had malaria, I caught it in Panama in what was once a malaria free zone, I find the whole arguement over what measures to take a bit ridiculous.

    The polio vaccine kills a few people out of every million who take it, yet we still administer it. DDT, which has never reportedly killed anyone, is banned/severely restricted because it might kill some wildlife. All the while, millions of people die every year worldwide.

    The same group of sanctimonious assholes calling for this kind of prohibition convienently forget that malaria was wiped out in the southern US by aggressive outdoor DDT use. Go figure,

    Peacedog

  69. On the “drug as trade secret” alternative:

    (1) It would certainly mean the end of the FDA or any other kind of regulatory safety/efficacy regime. I don’t know how you can have any kind of evaluation of a drug where its formulation is secret.

    (2) I’m not even sure how run any kind of academic/clinical research on “secret” drugs. You certainly can’t publish anything meaningful.

    (3) Finally, I’m not sure how long it would take to reverse engineer a drug. I suspect not long at all, since most of them are basically chemical compounds.

  70. i for one welcome our new genetically modified mosquito overlords!

  71. damn… this is what happens when you start at the bottom of the thread.

  72. From the CDC:

    With the success of DDT, the advent of less toxic, more effective synthetic antimalarials, and the enthusiastic and urgent belief that time and money were of the essence, the World Health Organization (WHO) submitted at the World Health Assembly in 1955 an ambitious proposal for the eradication of malaria worldwide.

    Eradication efforts began and focused on house spraying with residual insecticides, antimalarial drug treatment, and surveillance, and would be carried out in 4 successive steps: preparation, attack, consolidation, and maintenance.

    Successes included eradication in nations with temperate climates and seasonal malaria transmission. Some countries such as India and Sri Lanka had sharp reductions in the number of cases, followed by increases to substantial levels after efforts ceased.

    Other nations had negligible progress (such as Indonesia, Afghanistan, Haiti, and Nicaragua). Some nations were excluded completely from the eradication campaign (most of sub-Saharan Africa).

    The emergence of drug resistance, widespread resistance to available insecticides, wars and massive population movements, difficulties in obtaining sustained funding from donor countries, and lack of community participation made the long-term maintenance of the effort untenable. Completion of the eradication campaign was eventually abandoned to one of control.

    The idea that the failure of malaria eradication was mainly due to the banning of DDT is simplistic (though I think more use should be made of it than has been the case) – though seemingly comforting to many on this site.

    It’s worth comparing with TB – more or less eradicated from rich countries (due to public health measures before 1950, with drugs kicking in from 1950 onwards), but still prevalent in many poor countries.

    Didn’t need a green-inspired ban of any evil chemical to allow that to happen…

  73. Mother Theresa was not charitable. She was an evil, malicious, hypocritical, and sadistic bitch.

  74. Malaria, which had been cut to 50,000 a year has gone back up to 2 million. If it is “simplistic” to draw a connection then what else, other than banning, changed so dramatically as to have that effect?

    For that reason I would be against releasing these mosquitos at present. We already have a method of ending malaria which has been thoroughly tested, has never damaged a human & which can be stopped if there is any real problem (or as we have seen even if there isn’t)

  75. technological solution, one that required no upkeep and no individual responsibility

  76. Sometimes bugs are all bad. Most of us dont want them in our homes.

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