Written by Cameron DeWith
While most mosquito species feed solely on the nectar from plants and fruits, the females from certain species extract human blood for the development of their eggs. Of these select mosquito groups, only about half carry parasites which cause disease in humans. These specific species have detrimental global effects despite their relatively limited number; diseases carried by mosquitoes kill about one million people per year, making mosquitoes the world’s deadliest animal. Making the issue even scarier, most diseases spread by mosquitoes do not have available vaccines or medications. Thus, the question arises: How can humans fight back against disease-causing mosquitoes?
A Possible Solution
One possible way to deal with disease-causing mosquitoes is to eliminate them entirely. In order to do this, mosquitoes develop in a laboratory so the males can be separated from the females; the females are killed off because they bite humans. The male mosquitoes kept alive then receive genetic modification to carry a gene that stops offspring from properly developing. Finally, the males go into the wild and mate with female mosquitoes to produce fertilized eggs that do not develop correctly. As more genetically-modified males go out into the world, the populations of disease-carrying mosquitoes will decline. The benefit to this approach is that it does not use chemicals or harm other insects. As well, only the predetermined types of disease-carrying mosquitoes grown in laboratories will die.
There are some challenges with trying to wipe out disease-carrying mosquitoes.
- The mosquitoes need to be separated into male and female by hand or mechanically, both of which are very labour-intensive. The process will eventually need to be automated.
- Wiping out an entire species of mosquitoes would be impossible because it requires every female in a given area to mate with a genetically modified male. Since it requires millions of genetically-modified mosquitoes to reduce disease-carrying populations in small areas, it would require billions of genetically-modified mosquitoes to completely wipe out specific groups of disease-carrying mosquitoes from our world.
- If we eradicate mosquitoes, there is the potential that the “removal of one pest leads to replacement by another” (Alphey, 206). This ‘next’ pest could be equally harmful.
- Many people believe that it is morally wrong to try to wipe out entire species.
Personally, I like the idea of eradicating mosquitoes to save the numerous lives lost each year at the hands of diseases transferred by mosquitoes. However, some potential risks associated with eradicating disease-carrying mosquitoes need to be studied in depth. As well, the feasibility and the cost of wiping out species of mosquitoes needs to be considered. Whether or not the world decides to make the move to eliminate disease-carrying mosquitoes completely is still up in the air. What I can say with certainty, though, is that it will be a while before pesky mosquitoes are gone. Until then, layer up and wear lots of mosquito repellent!