Mosquito bites could become ancient history

tiger-mosquito-49141_640Now that summer’s here, have you noticed that the mosquitoes are out in full force? Did you know that mosquitoes cause more human suffering and disease than any other organism on the planet? Over 750,000 people a year die from mosquito-borne illnesses, and it’s not just humans that are affected! Mosquitoes spread dog heartworms, Eastern equine encephalitis, and many other diseases that affect our pets and local wildlife. But there might soon be a solution!

Researchers have figured out a way to genetically engineer mosquitoes that could dramatically reduce or eliminate some mosquito-borne illnesses. In these mosquitoes, when sperm is produced, the X chromosome that the male would normally pass on to its female young is destroyed, so 95% of the time they only have male offspring. Why does this matter? Well, male mosquitoes don’t bite- the females do. Females spread disease, and one female can lay up to 3,000 eggs over the course of her lifetime.

Hopefully, this type of pest control could eliminate many mosquito-borne illnesses. But could this type of gender control work in other species? Could this research have applications in the understanding and management of X-linked diseases? What do you think?

Read more about it here:

http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/boys-only-experiment-could-end-biting-mosquitoes-n126806

4 thoughts on “Mosquito bites could become ancient history

  1. karen

    What are the unintended consequences of this alteration of the food chain? If the overall population of mosquitoes eventually die away (with only 5% females at any one time I don’t see how the population is sustainable) what will bats, birds and other species feed on?

    1. Science Kicks Ass Post author

      Thanks for visiting! Because these mosquitos would still produce a small number of female offspring, it’s expected that the populations would rebound. However, in the event that a dramatically reduced population of mosquitos caused problems in the ecosystem, it’s not out of the question to replace those populations with new, ‘clean’ mosquitos. Check this out- specific mosquitos were hand-transported to replace the indigenous population of mosquitos! http://fbresearch.org/virus-blocking-mosquitos-to-the-rescue/

  2. micah leshem

    What are the ecological implications of bringing a species to the brink of extinction? In this case, has tis been considered and what are the possible consequences?

    1. Science Kicks Ass Post author

      Definitely a good point. Because these mosquitos would still produce a small number of female offspring, it’s expected that the populations would rebound. However, in the event that a dramatically reduced population of mosquitos caused problems in the ecosystem, it’s not out of the question to replace those populations with new, ‘clean’ mosquitos. Check this out- specific mosquitos were hand-transported to replace the indigenous population of mosquitos! http://fbresearch.org/virus-blocking-mosquitos-to-the-rescue/

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