by Countable | 9.28.18
New gene-editing tools have wiped out a population of mosquitoes in a lab, raising the possibility that we could do it in nature at large.
Apart from bugging us at barbecues, mosquitoes transmit malaria, yellow fever, dengue, and filariasis – four of the most important diseases of the tropical and subtropical parts of the world today. As the climate continues to warm and expand mosquitoes’ habitat further north, experts think it’s only a matter of time before malaria shows up in the U.S.
Mosquitoes also carry newer diseases, such as the West Nile and Zika viruses.
So, obviously, they should die. Right?
Well, maybe not.
Scientists are still untangling how mosquitoes fit into the food web and environment at large:
That said, only a small fraction of mosquito species carry diseases that infect humans, and this new gene-editing technology appears specific enough that it could target one species without affecting the others.
Furthermore, mosquito-control efforts are already underway across the globe, many of which involve pesticides that are themselves harmful to human health and the environment.
Some have suggested a darker consideration: Mosquitoes’ most important role in the ecosystem might be to control the human population, thereby reducing its harmful impact on the planet.
Should we try to eradicate disease-carrying mosquito species? Why or why not? Tell your reps what you think, then share your thoughts below.
—Sara E. Murphy
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / frank600)
Written by Countable