Building a Kinder, Gentler Mosquito

Juliet Farmer
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MosquitoOne of my favorite summertime activities involves sitting outside at dusk and enjoying a cool breeze, usually while sipping on an adult beverage.

Unfortunately, during the warm-weather months, these evening sojourns in my backyard are almost always cut short by the annoying buzz of mosquitoes. And I was already paranoid about West Nile Virus and heart worm (the former on my behalf, the latter on my dog's), but now I've also got malaria on my radar! Travelers can and still do come down with it.

Luckily, some scientists just created a malaria-proof mosquito.

According to ScienceDaily, some scientists at the University of Arizona have succeeded in genetically altering mosquitoes so they are immune to the parasite that causes malaria.

This is particularly good news for the estimated 250 million people who contract malaria each year (1 million of which, mostly children, do not survive). According to experts, 90 percent of the number of deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, but until the late '40s and early '50s, malaria was prevalent in most parts of the U.S.

Then came DDT, which was effective if nothing else. Although a new case of malaria occurs in the U.S. only on rare occasions, to date there are no effective or approved malaria vaccines.

For now, these malaria-proof mosquitoes are kept under lock and key. Researchers are currently trying to figure out how to replace the mosquitoes that bug us with the lab-bred ones.

Here's an idea: Instead of spending all that gene research money on building a better bug, why not just, you know, work on a way to get rid of them altogether? Because while I may not get malaria, I'm still going to get pretty itchy.

Could someone please pass the insect repellent?

How do you fight mosquito bites?

 

Image via dr_relling/Flickr

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