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Fighting Mosquitoes With GM Mosquitoes 521

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-a-bug-eat-bug-world dept.
doug141 writes "Scientists are releasing genetically modified male mosquitoes that produce flightless female offspring. The male offspring go on to wipe out another generation of females. This is similar to the way screwworms were eradicated in the U.S., except with nature itself making more of the modified males. Field trials are already underway."
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Fighting Mosquitoes With GM Mosquitoes

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  • by migla (1099771) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @05:01PM (#38218712)

    What could possibly go wrong?

    • by arcite (661011) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @05:06PM (#38218788)
      Or maybe not. Actually I would be more in favor of releasing wave after wave of bats. Fruit bats preferably, they're cute!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      But they're only creating males - you know, like in Jurassic Park.
      • No in Jurassic Park they didn't make Males.

        Females can in theory spontaneously reproduce... Males cannot.
    • What could possibly go wrong?

      The mosquito could become extinct in a few generations. Here's how this could play out:

      Mosquitoes usually fly when fleeing danger. These flightless mosquitoes will not be in position to flee! In a situation where they could survive a whack by flying away, they will surely be killed!

      Killed in enough numbers, there will be no female mosquitoes to produce the 'next generation!'

      Result: Males will find it difficult to find a mate, resulting in fewer mosquitoes all together.

      Folks, the

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Indeed. Without a vector for malaria, what will we do about all those poor brown people?

      • There are places in the world today where eradication of mosquitoes would definitely be seen as a Good Thing.

        Malaria, sleeping sickness, ...

      • by Bowling Moses (591924) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @05:56PM (#38219546) Journal
        "Folks, the mosquito could get extinct in a few years. Scary indeed."

        Well, A mosquito species could be come extinct. According to TFA, Aedes aegypti to be exact. This particular mosquito can carry several major human pathogens including dengue hemorrhagic fever, yellow fever, and chickungunya, which are all viral diseases. Ae. aegypti originated in Africa but is now found throughout tropical and subtropical regions including the USA, where it used to be in only Florida and the southeast but has since spread north to New York and Illinois. Especially alarming is the fact that there have been outbreaks of dengue recently (in 2010 at least) in Florida.

        Eradication of Ae. aegypti might not necessarily be that big of a deal environmentally. While mosquitoes are an important part of the diet of many predators, there are over 40 genera comprising thousands of species of mosquitoes. Any reasonably sized chunk of land probably has more than one species of mosquito, for example here in Wisconsin we have not less than 58 species. Even tiny Rhode Island is home to at least 46 mosquito species!
        • by cayenne8 (626475) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @06:20PM (#38219996) Homepage Journal

          Any reasonably sized chunk of land probably has more than one species of mosquito, for example here in Wisconsin we have not less than 58 species. Even tiny Rhode Island is home to at least 46 mosquito species!

          Hell, here in Louisiana, the mosquito is the fscking state bird....

          :)

        • While mosquitoes are an important part of the diet of many predators, there are over 40 genera comprising thousands of species of mosquitoes

          And while pork is an important part of my diet, I can do just fine without it, thank you.

        • by icebike (68054)

          Other than feasting on warm blooded animals, there is probably no other significant niche that mosquito fill that could not be filled by other insects, so even if some mosquito species are more or less suppressed (eradicated seems un-likely), there are a dozen other insects that will fill the bellies of the the mosquito eaters.

          Further, since it is (allegedly) only the female mosquitoes that seek blood, simply reducing the flying ability of females may give the perception that mosquito are reduced without ac

          • by Bowling Moses (591924) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @10:08PM (#38222116) Journal
            Male mosquitoes feed on nectar from flowers, in the lab we feed them sugar water. Female mosquitoes on the other hand require a blood meal for the proper development of their eggs. Mosquitoes live in the water as free swimming larvae, which will develop into similarly free-swimming pupae. When development is complete, the pupae floats to the water surface and the adult mosquito emerges. The adult mosquito stands on the water surface while its new exoskeleton and wings dry and harden. The adult mosquito can't swim, and while it can walk on water it only does so when emerging from the pupae and for some species when depositing eggs. It minimizes water walking in both cases and flies away as soon as possible. That's what makes this so cool. The female, and only the female mosquito, is stuck on the water unable to fly and practically motionless. It's a free lunch to any mosquito-eating predator around. The males on the other hand are free to escape and then free to mate and pass that gene on to their offspring--again fatal to their daughters, and no harm to their sons, who repeat the cycle.
      • by Scarletdown (886459) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @07:30PM (#38220800) Journal

        Result: Males will find it difficult to find a mate, resulting in fewer mosquitoes all together.

        And then those mateless male mosquitos will either go into IT, become imaginary property lawyers, or become politicians.

      • by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @08:48PM (#38221366) Journal

        Result: Males will find it difficult to find a mate, resulting in fewer mosquitoes all together.

        Or, worse, you're going to end up with a bunch of horny male mosquitos humping your leg.

      • by bryan1945 (301828) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @10:51PM (#38222442) Journal

        Many many years ago I read a study that determined that the only species that could go poof and it wouldn't matter was the mosquito. It wasn't this one, but it said more or less the same thing-
        http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100721/full/466432a.html [nature.com]

    • by wiedzmin (1269816)
      What happens when flightless female offspring continue to reproduce? Looking forward to being afraid of lying down on the ground out of fear of being attacked by millions ground-dwelling blood sucking parasites, who have developed supernatural running speeds to compensate for their inability to fly :)
  • by stevegee58 (1179505) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @05:06PM (#38218772) Journal
    Sorry to break up this anti-mosquito party, but don't mosquitos serve a useful purpose in nature?
    Is it OK for us to blindly eradicate them just because they cause disease in humans? It's not like mosquitos are going to kill us off or anything.
    • by LoudNoiseElitist (1016584) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @05:08PM (#38218812)

      Although I don't immediately know the specifics for mosquitos, not everything in nature serves a useful purpose.

    • The effort to warm the planet will increase the population of mosquitos. We have to eradicate them to enjoy our swan song.

      • The effort to warm the planet will increase the population of mosquitos. We have to eradicate them to enjoy our swan song.

        Ever been to Winnipeg?

    • by Taibhsear (1286214) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @05:17PM (#38218946)

      Since clearly a lot of people didn't read the article or the link in the article that directly addresses this [nature.com]...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @05:18PM (#38218970)

      I found this on the Internet.

      http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100721/full/466432a.html

      [[Ecology: A world without mosquitoes

      Eradicating any organism would have serious consequences for ecosystems — wouldn't it? Not when it comes to mosquitoes, finds Janet Fang.]]

    • I thought everything has its place in the ecosystem, but I've always wondered about mosquitoes and ticks.
    • I believe there was a science fiction story that once something like this:

      Some super space aliens/God came to earth and after seeing what Man had done to the planet gathered up all the animals and asked:

      "If two of you will say that Man was good to you, I will spare him, otherwise he will be made extinct like he has done to so many of you."

      The dog, stood next to his master, loyal in his hour of need. The cat on the other hand merely licked his paws and sauntered away.

      "Is there no-one else who will vouch for

    • Nature can survive without this particular species of mosquito. There are hundreds of other flies that fill the same niche.

    • by Remus Shepherd (32833) <remus@panix.com> on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @05:26PM (#38219094) Homepage

      The article links to this Nature story [nature.com] that asserts that completely eradicating mosquitos would have no measurable effect on the environment. They don't really do anything but spread disease. They might have a role as a food source for other animals, but they don't appear to be very significant.

      But we might be missing an important part of the chain, and wiping out the mosquitos might throw the world completely out of balance. Then again, humans have so many reasons to hate the little buggers that it still might be worth it.

    • Less than 10% of mosquito species carry plasmodium. It's about 100% certain that killing off the species that do will result in the other non-lethal mosquito species filling their niche.

    • by kEnder242 (262421) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @08:08PM (#38221048)

      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-wipeout-gene&page=6 [scientificamerican.com]

      "Some people wonder if it is ethical—or safe—to eliminate an organism, even in just a small geographic area. Proponents argue that A. aegypti is an invasive species that has evolved to exploit a solely human niche. “Urban A. aegypti is not part of any significant food chain,” says Phil Lounibos, a mosquito ecologist at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory. Yet Lounibos doubts whether eliminating A. aegypti would stop dengue transmission permanently. “A previous campaign to eradicate this species from the Americas in the 1950s and 1960s, when it was the primary vector of urban yellow fever, failed miserably,” he says. The invasive Asian tiger mosquito—another good dengue vector—readily occupies niches vacated by A. aegypti. Moreover, both the Cayman and Tapachula mosquito strains, even if successful, are not permanent. Migration of mosquitoes from neighboring regions into Tapachula could foil eradication attempts and mandate frequent releases of the modified males to keep the population in check."

  • Genocide (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wisnoskij (1206448) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @05:08PM (#38218810) Homepage

    You would think that some organization like the UN would step in and tell the US that genocide of an entire species is not a good thing.

  • SO were gonna end up with mosquito's that now can crawl and bite us. Also how many other species need those mosquito's to survive?

  • Itchy (Score:3, Funny)

    by Ogive17 (691899) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @05:14PM (#38218894)
    Anyone else start to itch while reading this article?
  • That's nuts.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RobinEggs (1453925) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @05:15PM (#38218920)
    Much as humans hate them, mosquitoes constitute a potent food source to smaller vertebrates. Mammals represent massive concentrations of energy, and blood is a high energy substrate. Mosquitoes are a huge power source of fish, bats, etc. when they're caught still full of blood, and they're easy to catch.

    I read in the one of the article links that the ecological impact isn't expected to be a serious problem, but I find that difficult to accept. And there are certainly detractors to that theory in the scientific community.

    Is eradicating malaria, West Nile, etc. really worth the risks? They may be highly threatening to humans, but ultimately we still have to live here after the mosquitoes are gone...
    • Re:That's nuts.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @05:32PM (#38219194)

      "The humble mosquito, and the deadly diseases it carries, is estimated to have been responsible for as many as 46 billion deaths over the history of our species. That staggering number is even more frightening in context - it means that mosquitoes are alleged to have killed more than half the humans that ever lived."

      Besides eliminating one species of Mosquito isn't going to affect the others that live in the same places. (like eliminating Chihuahuas won't affect other dogs species much)

    • by geekoid (135745)

      You are being stupid. Stop being stupid. RTFA and you will see why your post is a very stupid post.

      It's 1(one) species of mosquito.

  • Instead of eradicating them, why not impose a strong selection just against the ones we don't like, namely, the ones that can carry yellow fever, dengue, etc.

    If we start imposing a strong selection pressure against mosquitoes that carry disease, but leave the ones that DON'T carry disease alone, we wipe out the disease a lot more selectively. And we don't leave an open niche for something else (possibly worse) to occupy.

    --PM

  • by dbc (135354) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @05:36PM (#38219250)

    Just put the California Department of Fish and Game in charge of maintaining a self-sustaining breeding population of mosquitoes.

  • by PPH (736903) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @05:39PM (#38219304)

    So the flightless females will just sit around the house, eating cake and watching soap operas. While the males go out and work to support the family, eventually dying at their desks from massive coronaries.

    Whew! That certainly was cathartic.

  • by Oswald McWeany (2428506) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @05:44PM (#38219364)

    GM used to make good mosquitos a generation ago- but to be perfectly honest, the Japanese, and lately the Koreans make better Mosquitos.

    Now if only Ferrari made Mosquitos.

  • by wisebabo (638845) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @05:56PM (#38219554) Journal

    C'mon everyone, this is a news for (mainly) tech nerds into hardware/software not wetware (sorry biologists).

    We should be demanding progress on that mosquito vaporizing laser demonstrated at TED by Paul Allen's company. It seemed remarkably free of "side effects" and would not put a dent in the overall mosquito population (at least not until the "Star Wars" space based global anti-mosquito laser netwok is set up). They claimed that they could manufacture it (in quantity) for $50.

    I had Dengue fever last year and I'd buy one for ten times the price (I know that won't work for the developing world but hey, what can I say? I'm selfish and one less food source available for mosquitos the better for everyone).

    Anyone out there know how to get this thing "kickstarted"? How much would Paul Allen ask for the rights?

  • Some info on malaria (Score:4, Informative)

    by Nidi62 (1525137) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @06:02PM (#38219662)

    MALARIA FACTS Of the 300-500 million clinical cases of malaria that occur globally each year, 90 percent of them are in Africa. Malaria is endemic in more than 90 countries. Forty percent of the world population is at risk for malaria. Ten percent of world population gets sick each year with malaria. DEATH BY MALARIA Number of fatal cases of malaria each year: over 1 million Most common age at death: 4 years Every 30 seconds, a child dies of malaria Five percent of African children are killed by malaria, almost 3,000 each day, or the equivalent of seven jumbo jets full of children crashing every day. Up to 23 percent of African infants are born with the malaria parasite.

    (http://malaria.jhsph.edu/about_malaria/)

    Personally, I think killing large numbers of mosquitoes is a good thing, especially considering malaria is quickly becoming resistant to the drugs used to treat it. A reduction in mosquito numbers would greatly reduce the transmission of this disease.

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