You fight fire with fire or so seems the current attempts of scientists to stop once and for all malaria’s pursuit of infecting humans which has been going on for more than 50,000 years now. The idea is to release genetically modified mosquitoes and release them in the wild. These mosquitoes, being stronger, will eventually push the malaria carrying species to extinction. That’s the plan.
Malaria remains to be a major infectious disease in the tropics and subtropic regions. From South America, to Asia and Africa, millions still die every year because of the disease. Victims are mostly young children. The fact that most of the countries affected are Third World countries says a lot about the disease. Countries stricken with poverty are more susceptible to the disease since most of the victims are poor and unable to afford antimalarial drugs and hospital treatments.
Protozoan parasites from the Plasmodium genus is the culprit behind the disease. There are a number of varieties malaria that have been known to infect humans but the most serious ones are caused by Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax species of the parasites. Mosquitoes are the primary mode of transmission of these parasites to humans.
In particular, female Anopheles mosquitoes are the carries of the disease. Once the female mosquito bites a human, the parasites are transferred into the red blood cells where it multiplies. The parasites will cause a variety of symptoms including but not limited to light headedness, shortness of breath, fever, chills, nausea, and flu-like illness. There are even some instances where the infections cause coma and death.
Since mosquitoes are the known culprits in spreading malaria, it is only natural that the best solution is prevent carrier mosquitoes from biting you. People have been using mosquito nets, insect repellents, fumigation as means of controlling the mosquito population in an area. But Science has offered a revolutionary solution to this age old problems. And that is breeding malaria-resistant mosquitoes and allowing them to be the dominant species preventing the malaria-carrying insects to breed and reproduce preventing the transfer of the protozoan parasite from infected animals to humans.
This vision of scientists involve genetically modifying species of mosquitoes to create a stronger breed. By spreading thousands or even millions of these genetically modified insects to the wild will eventually replace the other species of mosquitoes.
But as always, genetic modifications can bring more harm than good. Instead of wiping out malaria, you might end up creating stronger strains of the disease. Plus, scientists are finding it difficult to create a stronger breed of mosquitoes. Releasing weaker breeds is useless since they will just be killed by stronger malaria carrying mosquitoes.
However, even though genetically modified mosquitoes appear to be weaker, they in fact out live a lot of the wild mosquitoes. Eventually the genetically modified ones are slowly out-surviving the wild ones. Nevertheless, scientists are continuously conducting studies and laboratory experiments about this field. There are still many things to consider. For one, they still need to increase the chance of how the resistant genes will be inherited by the mosquito eggs.