Biotech Bugs: The Effects of Mosquitos
“When it comes to killing humans, no other animal even comes close,” -Bill Gates on mosquitoes. The World Health Organization estimated that in 2010, between 660,000 and 1.2 million people had died from malaria, a diseases caused by mosquitoes. These numbers surely cannot be ignored, and that is why we have developed a solution: biotech mosquitoes.
Slated to become one of the greatest new weapons in the war between humans and mosquitoes, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of lives; these biotechnology-infused mosquitoes have been genetically engineered to pass on a lethal gene to their offspring causing them o die before they can reach adulthood. When these biotech bugs are released, their primary purpose is to reproduce and pass this gene, and the way they are engineered helps them to carry out this task. This technique has already been proven to decrease the population of mosquitoes by 80 percent.
The biotech bugs are made by a company called Oxitec, and at first the way they did it didn’t offer a very high success rate; the first step takes a lot of tries. They alter the bugs by injecting a bit of DNA into thousands of eggs, and basically wait to see if the process works. Many of the eggs injected simply will not survive, while in other cases the DNA will fail to work it’s way into the mosquito’s cells. In rare cases, however, the new DNA will be taken up by the mosquito’s cells and will be sliced and stuck into the organism’s genome, if this happens in the sperm cells of a male or the egg-producing cells of a female, then the very same DNA can be passed onto the next generation of mosquitoes. By the way, each “batch” of the little buggers is about 300 eggs, so to have success with just one of the bugs does really make a difference.
Once Oxitec has one successful batch of the genetically altered mosquitoes, they can breed them with one another, eventually resulting in hundreds of the bugs carrying the lethal gene. Once they have enough, they ship them out to a certain location and release them, allowing them to carry out their task and help us fight off the risks that come with the current mosquito population. Predictions say that within a decade we may be all together rid of the problem, once again with thanks to biotechnology.