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Biotech Science

GM Mosquito Could Fight Malaria 281

Posted by Zonk
from the we-need-gm-bugs-to-solve-more-problems dept.
qw0ntum writes "The BBC is reporting that a genetically modified (GM) variety of mosquitoes could be effective in combating the spread of malaria to humans. These GM insects carry a gene that prevents them from being infected by the malaria parasite and has the added benefit of providing a fitness advantage to the mosquitoes. From the article: 'In the laboratory, equal numbers of genetically modified and ordinary wild-type mosquitoes were allowed to feed on malaria-infected mice. As they reproduced, more of the GM, or transgenic, mosquitoes survived. According to the researchers, whose results appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, after nine generations, 70% of the insects belonged to the malaria-resistant strain. [...] The modified mosquitoes had a higher survival rate and laid more eggs.' This has major implications for the billions of people living in areas with endemic malaria. The question in my mind, though, is what effects on the ecosystems of these areas will replacing an organism low on the food chain with a GM version? Between the news we saw last week and biomagnification, could this wind up substituting one problem for another?"
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GM Mosquito Could Fight Malaria

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  • GM Mosquito (Score:5, Funny)

    by Capt James McCarthy (860294) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @09:21AM (#18413793) Journal
    I smell a trademark lawsuit coming from Detriot..
  • Great, just great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ctrl-Z (28806) <.moc.namelocmit. .ta. .mit.> on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @09:21AM (#18413803) Homepage Journal
    This is exactly what we need: mosquitoes that are more likely to survive longer. Now I need to go buy a better bug spray. Thanks, science!
    • by RingDev (879105) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @09:28AM (#18413901) Homepage Journal
      This is a really risky move. Sure, the mosquitoes are now immune to Malaria and will no longer carry it. But what if this immunity protects them from some other virus that is capable of surviving in the mosquito for longer? Now you have suddenly increased the mosquito population, made it harder to kill the population and made them carriers for some new pathogen that may be just as deadly as Malaria. Genetically modifying something that low on the food change can and will have dramatic effects on the rest of the environment. Why would we run that risk for a problem that can be handled through immunization and treatment? Sure, medical coverage sucks ass in the jungle, but things could get a lot worse if the new mosquitoes carry a new problem into all of the local villages.

      -Rick
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @09:38AM (#18414045)
        There was an old lady who genetically modified a fly
        I don't know why she modified a fly - perhaps she'll die!
        There was an old lady who modified a spider,
        That wriggled and wiggled and tiggled around her;
        She modified the spider to catch the fly;
        I don't know why she modified a fly - Perhaps she'll die!
        There was an old lady who modified a bird;
        How absurd to modify a bird.
        She modified the bird to catch the spider,
        She modified the spider to catch the fly;
        I don't know why she modified a fly - Perhaps she'll die!
        There was an old lady who modified a cat;
        Fancy that to modify a cat!
        She modified the cat to catch the bird,
        She modified the bird to catch the spider,
        She modified the spider to catch the fly;
        I don't know why she modified a fly - Perhaps she'll die!
        There was an old lady that modified a dog;
        What a hog, to modify a dog;
        She modified the dog to catch the cat,
        She modified the cat to catch the bird,
        She modified the bird to catch the spider,
        She modified the spider to catch the fly;
        I don't know why she modified a fly - Perhaps she'll die!
        There was an old lady who modified a cow,
        I don't know how she modified a cow;
        She modified the cow to catch the dog,
        She modified the dog to catch the cat,
        She modified the cat to catch the bird,
        She modified the bird to catch the spider,
        She modified the spider to catch the fly;
        I don't know why she modified a fly - Perhaps she'll die!
        There was an old lady who modified a horse...
        She's dead, of course!
        • by Anonymous Coward
          SKINNER: Well, I was wrong. The lizards are a godsend.
          LISA: But isn't that a bit short-sighted? What happens when we're overrun by lizards?
          SKINNER: No problem. We simply unleash wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes. They'll wipe out the lizards.
          LISA: But aren't the snakes even worse?
          SKINNER: Yes, but we're prepared for that. We've lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat.
          LISA: But then we're stuck with gorillas!
          SKINNER: No, that's the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, t
      • by Ichoran (106539) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @09:42AM (#18414109)
        The protein that is introduced is specific for malaria. And that is specific for the entry of Plasmodium, the protozoa (i.e. eukaryote) that causes malaria. I's not a virus, not even a bacterium. So your fears are unfounded, at least in the form that you stated them.
        • by RingDev (879105) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @10:04AM (#18414473) Homepage Journal
          Even if you completely rule out any possibility of a new, or mutated virus/disease that may occur due to lack of competition of resources, you still have the numerous other mosquito borne diseases that will be on the rise due to the increase in mosquito population. Yellow Fever, West Nile, Encephalitis, and a hand full of other wonderful ailments would not be effect by the alteration, but would be effected by the increase in population.

          -Rick
          • by ikkonoishi (674762) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @01:30PM (#18418445) Journal
            RTFA

            The approach exploits the fact that the health of infected mosquitoes is itself compromised by the parasite they spread. Insects that cannot be invaded by the parasite are therefore likely to be fitter and out-compete their disease-carrying counterparts.


            The only advantage the parasite free mosquitoes have is that they don't carry the parasite. Its not like they increased their breeding rate or anything. When there is a source of uninfected blood the GM mosquitoes lose their advantage.
      • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @09:50AM (#18414227) Journal
        The mosquito isn't the actual problem - the problem is if you create sufficient selective pressure against the malaria parasite, eventually you'll get malaria parasites resistant to the gene in these mosquitos and will be back at square 1 again.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by RingDev (879105)
          Close, but not quite, you'll wind up WORSE off because you now have a bread of mosquitoes that are more likely to grow into adulthood. So not only do you have a new virus to worry about (one that may requires new R&D to develop immunizations and treatments for) but you also have a large mosquito population that is more resilient to traditional means of population control.

          -Rick
          • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @09:59AM (#18414377)
            Where are you getting this BS about more resistent to population control? The reason that mosquitoes were in greater numbers was a lack of the malaria parasite in the mosquitoes. If the malaria parasite somehow mutated or evolved to these new mosquitoes, I would believe we would be back to square one, not worse off.
        • by mpe (36238)
          The mosquito isn't the actual problem - the problem is if you create sufficient selective pressure against the malaria parasite, eventually you'll get malaria parasites resistant to the gene in these mosquitos and will be back at square 1 again.

          The problem with most parsites is that they have very short life cycles. For that matter so do mosquitos.
      • Because (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Cedric Tsui (890887)
        Because there is no immunization for malaria, and it kills some three million people annually.
        There is also no risk of a mosquito population boom, as their population is predictor limited. Mosquitoes also have a fixed life cycle length (4 days to 1 year) so there isn't a risk of them living longer and propagating some other epidemic.

        I'm personally worried about a different problem. Introducing genetic information through such a rapid process would dramatically decrease the genetic diversity of the mosquito
        • by RingDev (879105)
          "Because there is no immunization for malaria"

          Thanks for that, I had to double check after you said that, I had Malaria and Yellow Fever mixed up. Yellow Fever has the Immunization, Malaria doesn't.

          -Rick
      • by Mab_Mass (903149) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @10:20AM (#18414853) Homepage Journal

        This is a really risky move.

        To be sure, but from TFA:

        "I think it will be 10 to 20 years before transgenic mosquitoes are released into nature. It's very difficult to predict what will happen when we release these things," he added.

        "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."

        It is good to see that the scientists involved are, well, being good scientists.

      • by inviolet (797804) <slashdot.ideasmatter@org> on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @10:27AM (#18415029) Journal

        Why would we run that risk for a problem that can be handled through immunization and treatment?

        Malaria isn't feasible to handle through immunization and treatment, because malaria occurs in wet, nasty, remote, impoverished, quarrelsome places. You may now argue that such problems can be handled with a sufficient application of dumptruck loads of money, but again, the dumptruck loads of money are not interested in being applied to those areas of the world.

        Indeed, malaria has probably killed more humans than anything else in history. And now you sound like Marie Antoinette -- "Let them get treatment!"

        The unintended consequences of these GM mosquitoes would have to be severe in order to outweigh such a colossal improvement in lifespan and quality-of-life as this would bring to all the unfashionable places in the world.

      • by dharbee (1076687) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @11:33AM (#18416347)
        I think maybe you misunderstood. The only reason the GM mosquitoes survive better is because they do not have their health compromised by the malaria parasite. Specifically

        "However, when both sets of insects were fed non-infected blood they competed equally well."

        They aren't harder to kill.

      • by Tatarize (682683) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @12:49PM (#18417725) Homepage
        I disagree. I'll take that crap shoot. Under box number 1, you have a solution to a problem which kills millions upon millions of people. Under the mystery box you have perhaps nothing.

        Honestly, I don't think the FUD is warranted. Oddly enough though, I thought of this same solution several years ago. Seemed like a pretty good thing to do. Just fix the genes and improve the bug and you have yourself a solution after a few years. I wonder if the religious right will get pissed that people are solving the world's problems using natural selection.

        In theory the carrying capacity should be stable in the mosquito population (not suddenly over-run with bugs). Really all the improvement seems to do is make those mosquitoes immune to the parasite. So the new gene protects the mosquito and by proxy us. Basically they would be introducing a new gene into the population rather than a new bug. This improved gene should increase in frequency and as a result destroy the population of Malaria.

        The article is wrong that the mosquito need compete better even in a malaria free environment. Why the hell would that be the case? We should only care about them in the malaria environment. In fact, it would be the best if they competed worse in areas without malaria. That way the gene population would drop very low when Malaria does. When the gene solves the problem, having it die out would be the best solution.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by spun (1352)
      Yeah, uhhhhh, right. Malaria parasites, like all good parasites, don't kill their primary host right away. They live in its salivary glands so they can infect anything it bites. These mosquitoes aren't going to live longer. They just aren't going to kill people. Normally, that's counted as a good thing.
      • by The_K4 (627653)
        Ok....but what if in preventing them from being able to carry Malaria we make then MUCH more able to spred West Nile? Or perhaps enable them to carry Bird Flu? I think that this has some potential benifits but also a ton of risks, and we may not know if it's the "right" choice until it's too late.
        • by Arthur B. (806360) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @10:22AM (#18414901)
          ... what if... what if we don't do anything an people die from Malaria. You are trading off a sure gain over very hypothetical risks. Why is that? Why this bias for the status quo? What if the current mosquitoes are currently evolving to be better carriers of the West Nile and this will stop them... what if birds feeding on those mosquitoes don't get the bird flue? I doesn't make less or more sense than your scares. The point is, there is NOT necessary less risk in "not doing something" than in "doing something". Of course we can study those mosquitoes for years while people are dying of malaria, sure.

          Oh, this kind of "scare", "precautionary principle" actually led to DDT being banned in the world, while it had almost crushed malaria in Africa.
          • "Oh, this kind of "scare", "precautionary principle" actually led to DDT being banned in the world, while it had almost crushed malaria in Africa."

            I don't see this as the same kind of debate, but I'm with you on DDT. The quintessential case of reactionary emotional responses overwhelming a logical cost-benefit analysis. For a while it was "DDT=good" so everybody decided they should use it to bathe their children and spray a 4" deep layer on every square inch of farmland. Then we discover that the stuff i
      • by Fex303 (557896)

        These mosquitoes aren't going to live longer. They just aren't going to kill people. Normally, that's counted as a good thing.

        From the summary:

        These GM insects carry a gene that prevents them from being infected by the malaria parasite and has the added benefit of providing a fitness advantage to the mosquitoes.

        They might not live longer but even a tiny survival advantage could result in huge number of extra mosquitoes. And we don't know what the chances are of the malaria parasite adapting to the new '

      • Oh, come on. If you don't RTFA, at least read TFS.

        From the article: 'In the laboratory, equal numbers of genetically modified and ordinary wild-type mosquitoes were allowed to feed on malaria-infected mice. As they reproduced, more of the GM, or transgenic, mosquitoes survived. According to the researchers, whose results appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, after nine generations, 70% of the insects belonged to the malaria-resistant strain.

      • by radtea (464814)
        These mosquitoes aren't going to live longer. They just aren't going to kill people. Normally, that's counted as a good thing.

        Several people here have posted wondering if these new bugs will cause unexpected problems. Anyone with a tithe of theoretical or empirical biological knowledge will know that the question is not "if" but "when". Odd though it may sound, unexpected consequences are a certainty--we don't know what they are, but we can be absolutely sure they will happen.

        Any competent project manager
        • by AndersOSU (873247)

          Can you name a single instance anywhere any time that any "benign" organism has been released into the environment and has not resulted in unexpected shifts in ecological equilibria that have had significant negative consequences, often for the humans the introduced organism was originally intended to help?

          How about horses in America, and potatoes in Europe.

          There are plenty of non-native plants and animals that have generally been a boon to society.

          We should worry about unintended side effects, but that isn

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Red Flayer (890720)
      I, for one, welcome our genetically-superior malaria-resistant blood-sucking overlords.

      [pokes self in eye]

      Self, stop making these clichéd jokes. Sure, it was a low-hanging fruit, but really, can it possibly still be funny?
  • I, for one... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jas_public (1049030)
    I, for one, welcome our new bloodsucking overlords. But, seriously folks, those new GM mosquitoes will probably just cross breed with Africanized honeybees and take over the planet.
  • by Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @09:23AM (#18413829)
    ... what could possibly go wrong??
  • by DJCacophony (832334) <v0dka&myg0t,com> on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @09:24AM (#18413855) Homepage
    Alright! It's about time we found a way to fight Malaria! Up until now there have been no treatments for it. Next stop, mosquitos that fight smallpox!
  • by coolmoose25 (1057210) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @09:24AM (#18413857)

    Who would have thought that we would build a better mosquito rather than continuing to try and control/eradicate them. I am concerned about unintended consequences, but this is fundamentally a new approach to modifying our environment... rather than trying to kill them off and ending up hurting food chains, we just "tweak" them to keep millions of people from dying from them...

    I think it is a good thing.

    //now, let the killer bee comparison commence

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Psmylie (169236) *
      Yeah, I have to agree... When I went to read the wiki on this, I was amazed to find out exacly how bad this disease is... 300-400 million infected each year, 1-3 million of those who end up dead, and probably millions more with permanent brain damage. There may be negative side effects, but its really hard to imagine the cure being worse than the disease.

      Unless, of course, the parasite adapts to the new super-mosquitos and create a new, super malaria that is more infectious with a higher mortality rate.

      • Unless, of course, the parasite adapts to the new super-mosquitos and create a new, super malaria that is more infectious with a higher mortality rate.

        By malaria adapting to the 'super-mosquitos', it would be creating a different version of itself. Not a 'super-malaria', except from the point of view of the super-mosquitos. By being a different form of malaria specially-adapted to the new super-mosquitoes, we can expect it to be less virulent against humans. At start, anyhow. Given time, it may adapt to

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by profplump (309017)
      No, killer bees aren't bad -- they were created by selective breeding, not direct genetic manipulation, which means they are "natural" and therefore not dangerous unlike these terrible GM mosquitos and GM corn abominations.
    • Better mosquitoes (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Mark_MF-WN (678030) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @09:52AM (#18414255)
      Well, the USA has already been doing the next best thing -- eradicating certain insect species by engineering worse versions. There are about a dozen noxious parasites that were wiped out in most of North and South America by introducing (literally) millions of sterilized males into the ecosystem for a few years in a row. The sterile males grow larger and healthier than their virile counterparts (on account of not needing to produce any sperm), and so females breed with them preferentially. It's extraordinarily effective. Ever seen a screw-worm fly infection? Extinctions aren't always a bad thing... Actually, I think that's why the USA no longer has any native reservoirs of Malaria. I know that the American southeast is theoretically an ideal Malaria-zone, and did indeed have Malarial reservoirs a few centuries ago.


      The only reason it hasn't been applied to malarial mosquitoes in Asia and Africa is that there are something like two dozen species to deal with, and each one would require its own entire eradication program and on a much larger scale (it turns out that Asia is really big). That's what's cool about this idea -- it's a slightly more subtle variant of what the US has been doing for decades now. It's just more targetted -- eliminating the particular genes that allows malaria to be carried rather than the entire insect. And it avoids the need to breed millions or billions of the bugs yourself and releasing them every year -- the insects do it all for you, as long as the new alleles really are favourable.


      Very clever -- IF it actually works. Goodness knows the people in the third-world don't need to have Malaria keep kicking them while they're down. Any chance to reduce the size of Malaria's bootprint is definitely worth a serious look.

      • by tgd (2822)
        Actually, I think the reason we don't have malaria in the US is because malaria doesn't survive freeze cycles (no idea if its because the pathogen doesn't, or if it something with the infection vector in mosquitoes that a die-off prevents infection).

        There's been a lot of articles written about how climate changes could move the malaria zone into the US as areas that do not experience freezes start to move further north. (Something with central Mexico being a natural barrier, etc)
        • Malaria was common on the eastern seaboard in what is now the US during colonial times, even as far north as New York.

          The reason we don't have malaria in the US is due to eradication efforts in the 20th century, that included drainage of swamps, destruction of standing water sites, DDT use (all these things for prevention), and most importantly, detection and treatment of malaria-infected humans, the natural resevoir of malaria in North America. It's the wealth and medical care in the US that has succeede
    • by couchslug (175151)
      Millions of people die from malaria because they relentlessly choose to live in unsuitable areas and make the whole litany of social and cultural mistakes that leave their countries vulnerable.

      Instead of making a GM super'squito to fight malaria (and later carry a worse payload in its robust little body) we should do nothing.

      Let the humans adapt their behaviors and make different choices instead. If they won't, nature will continue to take its course.
    • by Rohan427 (521859)
      Yeah, right, it's always been a good thing to screw with nature. Mankind has always been successful at that, we're such masters of our environment.

      PGA
    • In related news, there is also a plan [damninteresting.com] to free the world from tooth decay by introducing a GM strain of mouth bacteria that out-competes existing strains yet doesn't produce the acids which damage teeth. It's an interesting technique with a lot of promise, but also a lot of risk.
  • by condour75 (452029) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @09:27AM (#18413891) Homepage
    Skinner: Well, I was wrong; the lizards are a godsend.
    Lisa: But isn't that a bit short-sighted? What happens when we're overrun by lizards?
    Skinner: No problem. We simply release wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes. They'll wipe out the lizards.
    Lisa: But aren't the snakes even worse?
    Skinner: Yes, but we're prepared for that. We've lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat.
    Lisa: But then we're stuck with gorillas!
    Skinner: No, that's the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death.
  • Huh? (Score:2, Troll)

    by AliasTheRoot (171859)
    Surely the better solution is to use drugs etc to control Malaria instead of make some superbug that will eventually have some supermalaria? It's not as if controlling Malaria is an expensive or unknown problem.
    • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by solevita (967690) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @09:48AM (#18414199)

      It's not as if controlling Malaria is an expensive or unknown problem.
      On that point you're very wrong. Sure, for Westerners its easy to travel to malaria ridden areas and not be affected; I recently spent a month in east Africa and spent well over £100 making sure I didn't get malaria. Unfortunately these drugs are horrendously expensive; for some places £100 could be ten years wages for somebody, or even an entire family. Spending £100 in a month is absolutely unimaginable.

      Malaria kills millions of people each year. You're wrong, present methods of controlling malaria are expensive and unknown for the people that actually require them. I'm not sure that GM is the way to go, but I'm sure that something needs to be done, not for us holiday makers, but for those people that live in areas where malaria is rampant and the average wage is practically nothing a day.

      And I'm a little worried that someone modded you as funny.
      • I'm also surprised that I was modded funny. Maybe someone has had too many bongs today and liked my name.

        Quinine is not expensive.
        • by Chmcginn (201645)

          Quinine is not expensive.
          It's also a treatment one would have to take for life, as it does nothing to cure malaria. Oh, and there's some member of the Plasmodium genus that have developed resistance to quinine, as well as the more expensive (and more effective) drugs.
        • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by solevita (967690) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @11:32AM (#18416331)

          Quinine is not expensive.
          I love your assertion that all those people that have spent their entire lives and billions of billions of whatever currency you want to mention, missed something that you, random guy off Slashdot, knew all along.

          I'm no expert in this sort of thing by any stretch of the imagination, but if it was all as easy and as cheap as you say, don't you think someone else would have also come up with the same idea?

          I can just see some research scientist checking the front page of /. before making a phone call: "Sorry sir, it was all a waste of time, we should of stuck with Quinine all along. I've got plenty of it here, bring the Gin and meet me in my office after lunch".
        • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Informative)

          by AJWM (19027) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @11:43AM (#18416553) Homepage
          Quinine is not expensive.

          It's also relatively useless against malaria, and has been for years. Pity, really, I rather enjoy a nice gin'n'tonic in malaria-infested areas. (Tonic water is flavored with quinine.)

          About twenty years ago (last time I was in malaria country) the drug of choice was chloroquine -- a quinine derivative, yes, but not quinine. Even then, there were warnings about some areas where chloroquine-resistant malaria was prevalent. That resistance is pretty much everywhere, these days. The effective antimalarials are also pretty rough on the system if you're taking them for more than a couple of months.
  • that's cool

    Now just need to modify the mosquitoes more to only use rodents as their food source (and not as resistant to malaria or some disease that's fatal to rodents) so that they will help reduce the rodent population.
  • Just use DDT (Score:2, Insightful)

    by toupsie (88295)
    Why do we have to create mutant mosquitos when we can use good old DDT [npr.org]? All we have to do is get rich, white people to get off their high horses at cocktail parties so the rest of the world can be saved from this horrible disease. Too many people have died from malaria because of Silent Spring.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Ichoran (106539)
      The answer to all statements of the type "Just use (toxin)" is that you'll end up with (toxin)-resistant mosquitos, and then you're back where you started. In cases where you need some temporary relief, and the known toxic effects of DDT are less bad than the thing that you want relief from, sure, use it. But don't expect it to be a long-term solution.
    • Re:Just use DDT (Score:5, Informative)

      by sethg (15187) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @10:19AM (#18414837) Homepage
      There is no ban against using DDT for disease control. It's still used to fight malaria--in countries where widespread agricultural use of DDT has not made the local mosquitoes evolve DDT resistance. If it weren't for Silent Spring, there'd be a lot more DDT-resistant mosquitoes out there.

      See here for details. [timlambert.org]
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by greenguy (162630)
      You're right -- instead of the white people on their high horses at cocktail parties, we better listen to the white people shouting at each other over the pro wrestling on TV as they slurp their Bud Light.

      Or we could leave the ad homenim attacks aside, and take a look at the evidence.
    • Re:Just use DDT (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Garse Janacek (554329) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @10:47AM (#18415403)

      Why do we have to create mutant mosquitos when we can use good old DDT? All we have to do is get rich, white people to get off their high horses at cocktail parties so the rest of the world can be saved from this horrible disease.

      Wow, you paint an impressive caricature of anyone who could possibly disagree with you. However, your suggested solution (and the accompanying ad hominem) is just as simplistic as the opposing view that DDT is an unmitigated evil.

      For someone who is not rich, white and at a cocktail party and yet still disagrees with you, I'd point to my wife, who is Nigerian and, like most of her family, has actually had malaria. She still thinks unrestrained use of DDT is a bad idea -- partly because, though much of Silent Spring was discredited, it is still a toxin that builds up substantially over the very long term, and it's a good idea to avoid that if you don't know the effects over the course of a lifetime, but especially because of the point that other responses have made, that if we did that then soon DDT would become useless, even in cases where we really did need it.

      It would clearly be a stupid idea to recommend that every human being continuously take antibiotics. It is a similarly bad idea to say that entire ecosystems should be covered with DDT. Right now, use of DDT in moderation can handle particularly bad infestations. Heavy DDT use would lower malaria rates for a few years, before bringing it back up above todays levels because there would be no easy fix at all.

      Your caricature of rich white people on high horses perpetuating disease among the poor and powerless is only at all legitimate if you yourself are not also essentially an armchair philosopher on this issue. If you are insulting other people for having opinions on how to effectively protect people, because they have no personal stake and are somewhat removed from the issue, then you'd better have some personal stake or be close to the issue before going on about your own opinions on the issue. Obviously I don't know your personal stake, if any -- but a lot of people who seem to feel the way you do are no closer to the issue than your hypothetical rich white people.

      It would also be good to accept that people who oppose heavy DDT use are genuinely trying to protect people's lives, and have reasons for their opinions (even if you disagree with them), and it's not just that all of them freaked out after reading Silent Spring.

  • by CodeShark (17400) <ellsworthpc@@@yahoo...com> on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @09:33AM (#18413977) Homepage
    Okay, so they have a malaria resistant mosquito, and if there were no other effect of the GM, it seems like releasing the beastie to the environment would be a good thing as it substitutes a "less bad biter" for a "known bad biter" it the food chain and implicitly lowers the malarial infection rates.


    My question is "what about the other major mosquito-transmitted illnesses carried by the same type(s)? AKA yellow fever, west nile, etc.?" as I assume there is a limit to how many disease vectors could be prevented by this technique without introducing unintended and perhaps unstoppable effects later on.

    • You make a good point about unintended consequences. However, we have to balance the unquantifiable future harms caused by this technique with the future benefits it promises. More than a million people a year die from malaria, ninety percent of them in Africa, and seventy percent of them children under five. Seven hundred thousand children are dying every year from this disease. That is the equivalent of seven Boeing 747s crashing into mountains every day of the year. At some point, we simply have to
      • At some point, we simply have to save as many of these lives as we can and deal with whatever comes.

        I'm going to play a bit of the devil's advocate here, but overpopulation is the number one problem affecting Africa right now. The constant state of war? Due to too much demand for limited resources. Famine? Ditto. From a certain perspective, isn't allowing disease in Africa to wipe out a large portion of Africa's population a good thing?

        Blech, I just disgusted myself with that argument -- but I'm not s

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          It may help to understand a bit about just why they are so populated. Most countries with huge populations rely to a large extent on extended families for social support. Cultural mores in such places place a very high emphasis on respect and care of elderly...as in "You can't just ship them off to the old folks home or let them die. You have to feed, house, clothe, and clean as needed." Inversely, the obligation on the young is huge to point of being required to neglect yourself if that is what it take
          • I'm familiar with the breeding pressure and mortality link, but had forgotten about it, thanks for the info.
    • by phayes (202222)
      There is no reason to suppose that GM resistant mosquitoes cannot be developed for any number of diseases. The problem is elsewhere.

      Malaria is a special case as the plasmodium is also a true mosquito parasite: The mosquitoes are also weakened by the disease

      The malaria resistant mosquito has a real evolutionary advantage over malaria infected ones and will tend to supplant them. For other diseases where mosquitoes are only a benign (for the mosquito) carrier, there is no evolutionary advantage and thus n

    • by cowscows (103644)
      I think the obvious solution is robotic mosquitoes, completely immune to disease, able to out-compete the native species, and preprogrammed to self destruct when given the proper command via satellite.

      Robots are the future.
    • by AJWM (19027)
      My question is "what about the other major mosquito-transmitted illnesses carried by the same type(s)? AKA yellow fever, west nile, etc.?"

      We have vaccines against those. One shot and you're good for ten years (at least for yellow fever, although you feel like hell for the first day; not sure on the specs for west nile).

      There's no vaccine for malaria, nor will there likely be, since it isn't a virus or bacteria.
  • ... "could"
  • by Ichoran (106539) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @09:39AM (#18414061)
    The PNAS study shows an additional effect that isn't quite covered by the blurb above: heterozygous mosquitos (those with only one copy of the gene) are more fit than homozygous mosquitos (those with two copies). This means that there is pressure to retain a large number of heterozygous individuals, which means there will be a mixed population of transgenic and non-transgenic mosquitos. While this might help humans in the short run (a smaller fraction of the mosquitos you're bitten by would carry Plasmodium, the malaria parasite), in the long run it pretty much guarantees that people will still get malaria, and the malaria parasite will have lots of opportunities to develop resistance to the introduced gene.

    So it's a nice idea--and it would be more effective than releasing low-fitness transgenic mosquitos--but it's not quite there yet.

    As to fears of biomagnification, mosquitos generally don't deal with stress by producing toxic compounds (unlike plants, who only have that option), and the transgenic protein is a protein and hence digestable. So it's very unlikely that there would be anything to magnify. Instead of worrying about creating toxic mosquitos, we should make sure that when we actually hit Plasmodium with drugs and modified mosquitos and so on, that we make things so difficult for it that it really devastates its population. Otherwise, we're just conducting a transgenic-mosquito-resistant Plasmodium breeding experiment. (Plasmodium has already developed at least some resistance to most common anti-malarial drugs).
    • by mpe (36238)
      The PNAS study shows an additional effect that isn't quite covered by the blurb above: heterozygous mosquitos (those with only one copy of the gene) are more fit than homozygous mosquitos (those with two copies).

      This is quite interesting since a natural mutation in humans, that which causes sickle cell anemia, has exactly the same chracteristic. Maybe it's even working in a similar way.
  • GM? (Score:2, Funny)

    by endianx (1006895)
    Am I the only one who thought General Motors had created a mosquito?
  • So, the bug now has less of a chance of passing on it's disease, but it still behaves in such a way to make it possible.

    Why not make a super blood sucker that just thinks humans are the worst food choice on the menu? If the things didn't bit people, the problem is not just solved, but quality of life goes up too.

    PR wise, which GM skeeter wins, the hearty disease free kind, or the just as likely to die but not bite people kind?
  • Okay, great, but WHY? Isn't building disease-resistance into an even fitter pest just... well... stupidly short-sighted?

    If they're trying to supplant existing mosquitoes with a breed more suited to survival, can't they just make them NOT feed on humans, for example? That'd be infinitely preferable, surely.

  • by oglueck (235089) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @10:06AM (#18414531) Homepage
    ...same researchers found that their Ubermosquito had developed a capability of transmitting AIDS now. That was an en even worse disappointment than when Malaria had developed a resistence and was spreading as before...

    And: Ask our Australian friends about what people thought when they released a new species into their country versus what happened really. And scientists really claim they understand ecosystems? That's what I call dangerous.
    • by moeinvt (851793)
      " . . . researchers found that their Ubermosquito had developed a capability of transmitting AIDS now."

      That was my first thought. I think that the risk of introducing GM PLANTS into the environment was unacceptable. Insects takes it to an entirely new level.

      Haven't we learned enough from observations about invasive species to realize that randomly introducing a new organism into an ecosystem can have potentially devastating consequences? A mosquito that transmits AIDS is the nightmare scenario. What if
  • > The question in my mind, though, is what effects on the ecosystems of these areas will
    > replacing an organism low on the food chain with a GM version?

    Could be serious. The malaria parasite is a major factor in the control of the endemic species homo sapiens. Its elimination could result in a population bloom and habitat destruction.

    > Between the news we saw last week and biomagnification, could this wind up substituting
    > one problem for another?

    Frankenbugs! Frankenbugs! Giant, 100' franken
  • Imagine something going horribly wrong here... Instead of of wiping Malaria, a new gentically engineered super virus is spread.

    Hmmmmmmm...

    I kind of think if you live in a densly populated area, and right next door someone has TB or worse, and a mosquito bites the infected person and in a matter of a minute you get bit by the same insect, I believe you can get infected.

    Viruses are not living things. It's genetic code with a protein coating. You can oblitorate it by destroying it, microwave it,
    burn it, so
  • Forward-thinking Coca Cola company unveiled a new Coke flavor to target this new and upcoming atomic monster mosquito. Dubbed "Coke Blood", the drink incorporates human blood. Also introduced was "Coke Blood AB-", and "Diet Coke Blood", made with protomater (Coke disputes the assertion that protomater is unstable).
  • by Greyfox (87712) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @10:21AM (#18414867) Homepage Journal
    GM mosquito has a 10 foot wingspan and can drain an adult human dry in under 30 seconds.
  • "The lysine contingency [everything2.com] - it's intended to prevent the spread of the mosquitoes in case they ever got off the continent, but we could use it now. Dr. Wu inserted a gene that makes a single faulty enzyme in protein metabolism. Mosquitoes can't manufacture the amino acid lysine. Unless they're continually supplied with lysine by us, they'll slip into a coma and die."
  • The Coming Plague (Score:2, Informative)

    by Derosian (943622)
    You fail to understand the controversy.

    "Following World War II the worlds public health community mounted two ambitious campaigns to eradicate microbes from the planet. One effort would succeed, becoming the greatest triumph of modern public health. The other would fail so miserably that the targeted microbes would increase both in number and in virulence, and the Homo sapiens death toll would soar. Humanity's great success story would be smallpox... On May 8, 1980, the World Health Assembly formally
  • How about a GM mosquito that displaces the natural pest, and then dies out entirely in a 100 generations. Or is this starting to sound like Bladerunner?
  • ...is outbreeding the non-GM version, why? Perhaps we should understand that for an absolute certainty before introducing a 'hardier' version of the mosquito that just happens to also be malaria (or a version of it) free...? I'm no Luddite but that's a bit scary, eh? Laid more eggs than the non-GM? Great... That's wonderful ;).
  • Only female mosquitos bite, in order to get protein for egg production. If the mosquitos are laying more eggs, then they will be biting more in order to get more blood. Add to that a higher survival rate, and there will be more and more of these super biters in each generation. Ahh... but there is good news: they don't carry malaria. Well actually 70% after 9 generations. 70%... that's close enough to 100%, right?

    On top of that, there is no mention of yellow fever, dengue fever, epidemic polyarthritis, Ri

  • GM Malaria (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dlhm (739554)
    If you make a better Malaria resistent bug, then only be the strongest strains of Malaria will survive. Now your chances of surviving infection are lower. This is just a guess but it seems resonable.

God may be subtle, but he isn't plain mean. -- Albert Einstein

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