Eliminating Aedes aegypti

Aedes aegypti is the mosquito that transmits the zika virus. It also transmits yellow fever, chikungunya, and dengue fever. What if we could selectively eradicate just that species of mosquito? It turns out that we can. We can alter the DNA of males of the species to make all their offspring male. We would then release the altered specimens into the wild.

By releasing a small number of gene-drive mosquitoes, the number of wild females could be reduced each generation until they disappear completely. Without any females to produce the next generation of eggs, the surviving males would have a very lonely last few weeks until they died out, too, along with the genetic modification that caused their disappearance.

What adverse effects would this have?

In this case, the ecosystem in question is cans, buckets, pots, water storage jars, trash, tires, and whatever else is lying around collecting rainwater. Aedes aegypti does not breed in ponds, marshes, swamps, or wetlands, and thus there are no frogs and no fish to eat these mosquitoes—one of the reasons they have done so well as a species. Currently, our ability to control dengue transmission (and now Zika) is dependent on our ability to remove the places where Aedes aegypti lives and breeds. If we are already willing to destroy an entire ecosystem (i.e. clean up garbage, screen-over water storage containers), why not eliminate just this mosquito?

Read the whole article. I say let’s do it.




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