The Quest for A Total Annihilation of the Killer Mosquitoes

in #science2 years ago (edited)

Mr Kunle tried to swath the annoying buzz in his ear and only ended up slapping himself. It hurt, but that had been his nightly routine for the past one week. The mosquitoes appear resistant to all the insecticide he could lay his hands on. As he tried again to sleep, the buzz increases making sleeping difficult. More mosquitoes. He is up for a sleepless night. He only wishes the world would be free of these tiny blood-sucking annoying flying insects.

Kunle is not alone in that wish to get rid of the blood-sucking little vampires that cause an estimated 247 million malaria cases with at least a million fatalities. Mosquitoes are among the species that have up to 3500 variants. Out of these only about a 100 of it bothers to bite humans.

In the midst of this handful, there are three recognised species responsible for sending many people to their early graves in the worst-hit countries in Africa which are Nigeria, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Cote d'Ivoire and the United Republic of Tanzania. These countries account for 47% of the total malaria cases.


A Female Aedes Mosquito Sucking Blood. By James Gathany/CDC [Public domain] , from Wikipedia Commons Licenced

The species of mosquitoes we have to blame for this are Anopheles, Aedes and Culex.

The female species are capable of laying 1000 eggs in her lifetime which can be up to 30 days with the females living longer than the male. The eggs are capable of being dormant for up to a decade and only hatch under the optimum condition.




Unraveling the mystery


In the Sahel region of Africa, researchers looking for ways to permanently place the nail on the coffin of mosquitoes are working on an interesting theory. Like all the affected region in Africa, there is the period where there are rains and a period of dryness with no rain. In the no rain period popularly known as dry season in the Sahel regions of Africa, the population of mosquitoes during the extreme dry period is almost zero. But a weird phenomenon takes place in the first three days of rain; the mosquitoes reproduce and are everywhere. This phenomenon is weird because the entire average life cycle period of adult mosquitoes from egg to an adult is at least eight days.

What the researchers noticed was that fully grown ready-to-suck-blood mosquitoes mysteriously lays siege on the population in just after three days of rain. The answer to this mystery unravels the fact that the adult mosquitoes did not just complete their lifecycle in under three days, a biological improbable, but rather that the adult mosquitoes hide during the dry season waiting patiently to run amock on the first three days of wet weather.


An Idea is Born


The idea is simple, locate the hiding place of these mosquitoes and destroy them before the rains.

Enter Dana to the game. Dana is a German Shephard with a difference. She has the unique ability to sniff out the hiding places of dormant mosquitoes in Mali. You can watch her in action here.

The effort was from the team led by Tovi Lehmann of the U.S. National Institute of Health's Lab of Malaria and Vector Reseach. Dr Tovi Lehmann is a research entomologist. An entomologist studies insects and is a branch of zoology.

His team comprising of Africans, Americans, and other partners have spent an estimated $700,000 in their quest to seek out hiding places of insects using every method including the specially trained dog, Dana, which with a unique ability to smell out the hidden mosquitoes camp.

Though there is the possibility that the vast swarms of mosquitoes observed may be from migration from nearby places facilitated by strong winds, the researchers think aestivation, similar to hibernation where some insects go dormant during the dry spell only to appear during the rain via a simple experiment the team did. They painted about 7000 mosquitoes which they released to the wild. After a year, they were surprised to see some mosquitoes with the same paint on them. Since mosquitoes have a lifespan of only about 30 days on the extreme side, the only explanation is that the mosquitoes hibernated to reappear the next year during the rains in May.



Going the genetic route


The sterile insect technique (SIT) is not a new method of pet control. The technique has proven useful in the r=eradictation of screw-worm fly (Cochliomyia hominivorax (Coquerel)) from locations in Central and North America. This stemmed the losses in livestock in the area, a program that kicked off in 1957


A Screwworm Fly [Public domain] , from Wikipedia Commons Licenced

While Dr Tovi Lehmann is looking to wipe out the mosquitoes while they "sleep" during the dry season, some British researchers are looking at attacking the little monsters via their genetic makeup.

Dr Andrea Crisanti a scientist from the Imperial College in London wants to tamper with the genes of females mosquitoes making them sterile. If the entire female mosquitoes were unable to reproduce, it means we have less than two months to say goodbye to mosquitoes forever. The idea is a great one, but like all great ideas, they do not come without its hitches.

First, how do we get a great convention that will be attended by all the mosquitoes so we can effectively get to work and re-engineer their genes?

The scientist has the answer to that; we do not need the mosquitos in one place to carry out this gene war. All they need is their trusty CRISPR-Cas9 excellent genome-editing tool.

By screwing up the chromosomes, the mosquitoes can now pass this infertility gene to the next generation. The team have successfully done this editing on 600 mosquitoes with 75% of the population successfully passing down the mutation after four generation. That in itself shows the idea may just be what we need to say a final bye to malaria. But is it so?

The thing is that no one is sure how this genetic business will end up to. Will type of traits will these mutant mosquitoes have? Will we have genetic mayhem of a different breed of mosquitoes with new capabilities on our hands?

The director of Malaria Foundation, Ingeborg van Schayk echoed this sentiment too.

'We do not support the release of GM mosquitoes as long as the long-term effects on people and their environment remain uncertain... We don't know if malaria mosquitoes will adapt to being "modified" and leave us with even bigger problems.' DailyMail


The DDT solution



A DDT Container of the 1960s[CC0] , from Wikipedia Commons Licenced

There is this saying by the philosopher George Santayana, that human is doomed to repeat the history if they refuse to learn from it.

In the 60s, there was this mad rush to kill of mosquitoes with the use of the chemical Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane or DDT for short. It was a colourless and odourless chemical.

Thousands of drums of DDT later, we had a 95 percent drop in the number of deaths associated with malaria. But soon a book written in 1962 by Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, dropped the many disadvantages of the use of DDT including it being carcinogenic to humans plus other threats to wildlife, started the movement which leads to DDT being outlawed in 1972.

Recently there have been calls to bring back DDT in the fight against the zika virus, a virus spread by mosquitoes. Some African countries still use DDT. South Africa in the year 2000 reintronduce DDT. They limited the use to only walls indoors and the 61,000 recorded cases dropped by half after half a year of use.

Proponents of the genetically modified mosquitoes are of the opinion we should first give it a try and see how it pans out before criticising it.


Conclusion



The Extinct Tasmanian Tiger By Hobart Zoo (Hobart Zoo) [Public domain] , from Wikipedia Commons Licenced

Will it too bad for the environment/biodiversity if all the mosquitoes are eliminated? For instance, a declining snake population in the USA due to use of pesticides may lead to a drastic increase in mice, rats, insects, small amphibians, and the other things they prey on.

Although mosquitoes kill a lot of people, they are not an invasive species. Ironically the humankind is the number one invasive species.

But in the case of mosquitoes, extinction of the little annoying pesky flying things is something no one will cry over.

We can all breathe a sigh of relief, after all, we have had an entire species of beloved animals like the Tasmanian Tiger and passenger pigeon go extinct plus a host of others and we are just ok without them.


REFERENCES

  1. WHO: Malaria Report
  2. The Mosquito Hunt
  3. Mosquitoes engineered to pass down genes that would wipe out their species
  4. Keeping Up With the Fast-Moving Science of Gene Drives
  5. Screwworm control and eradication in the southern United States of America
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I'd love to have the lot of them taken down... With all that's outlined, I don't think they contribute much to nature anyways.

I won't shed a single tear if the mosquitoes are annihilated. I will celebrate instead.

The real question is, why do Noah let mosquitos and roaches on the boat? I like the idea of mosquito-sniffing dogs and altering mosquito dna. We already mess with gmo salmon and fruits and veggies. Why not go an extra step and annihilate the mosquito population from the face of the earth?

Haha, that is the first question I will ask Noah when next I see him. I guess we call only know the advantage/disadvantage if they try out the genetically modified version on a small scale to test how it goes before going nuclear.

DTT gets a bad rap because of its potential carcinogenic effects, but it's probably saved as many lives as penicillin in third world countries. Its health effects shouldn't be discarded, its still quite effective at repelling mosquitos.

Thank you. I guess you could say it did more good than harm.

If you have not lived in Sub-Sahara Africa or other tropical regions of the world, you may not know what it means to be terrorised by mosquitoes. Growing up, I had a theory that the inconvenience of mosquito bites was responsible for the noticeable difference in height between my cousins in the US and I. Lol.

I hope the researchers succeed in eradicating mosquito. That would be one more reason not to run from Africa.

Thanks for a well-written post.

Lol... invalid, that one.. I also thought so at a time.

I can totally relate with this your saying. It's almost as if the whole room at times are filled with mosquitoes. Some of them "miraculously" pass through non-treated mosquito nets. It's almost like a plague judging by the number of people that treat malaria here on a daily basis.

Very much so :)

Thank you very much.

This is a well written post.
In my opinion, Mosquitoes are invasive, intelligent , and have many ways to evade the humans as you have outlined. The effect of cerebal malaria caused by mosquito is alarming. I hate this insect that has continually dealt with us in Nigeria.
Sometimes I wonder if it is because malaria is more of African problem that's why we don't have a vaccine for it or that the Pharmaceutical companies prefer to making more money selling anti-malaria medicine.
I hope the researchers would find a solution to this problem.

There is always the conspiracy of big pharmaceutical companies withholding the treatment or cure for certain diseases to make more money. The truth is I don't know how true those conspiracy theories are. I'd love a vaccine for malaria. If there is one which is readily available, I'd be on the queue to get one and say goodbye to treating malaria up to five times or more in a year

The DDT also led to environmental contamination as well as 'extinction' of so many insects in Europe.
Worst still, even as the mosquitoes are getting resistant to the measures in combating them, we are also becoming resistant to the antimalarials 😥😥
It's just saddening, my lecturer concludes it is a means of controlling the human population...
Great read though

With DDT, it's all about the method of application. I consider myself to be a fairly hardcore environmentalist, but I have zero problem with DDT-infused netting or careful application to windowsills, doors, etc.

@effofex, I wish they should have looked at it a little more from all angles before the ban. It sure helped those of us in Africa, the worst-hit areas, to control the mosquitoes then.

The outcry on its effect on the environment was why it was banned in the first place. The resistance to it after a while was a secondary factor. Wow, your teacher statement is weird. Mosquitoes as a means of controlling human population? Some countries even put up ads so people can have children due to declining birth rate. Thank you for visiting my blog. I do appreciate it.

I would really love to see the end of these mosquitoes.
The day i was amazed to the brim was when a mosquito outside the net i was using managed to suck my blood from outside (my arm was close to the net) that day i realized these tiny beasts are something else.

And they have that annoying reggae and blues!

Lol... I bet it almost felt like Sorcery to you.. 🤣

I made sure i deleted the mosquito though.
You cannot suck my blood for free.

@rharphelle, I do relate to this. I'm currently battling to rid my room of mosquitoes. I am not a fan of mosquito nets, wish I was. I have this weird feeling of being in a cage with one in place. Lol

honestly Noah has a lot of Questions to answers... Lol

I totally agree with You that the extinction of mosquitoes is something no one would cry over and The extinction of mosquitoes is closer than Ever....

Fantastic Post... I learnt alot

Thank you very much, I need to see mosquitoes in the list of endangered species.

I try to sleep but mosquitoes won't just let me be. Especially when the NEPA decides to take their electricity living one defenceless again these vermin. I, for one, won't miss mosquitoes. They are terrible house guests.

Try spraying the room with insecticide before sleeping. A mosquito treated net can help too.

She has the unique ability to sniff out the hiding places of dormant mosquitoes in Mali

It is amazing what dogs can find with their superior sense of smell, identifying the place where mosquitoes live must be hard by just sniffing!

Mosquitoes are always annoying even when they aren't deadly to people. So being able to scale back their hunt for human blood will always be nice.

mosquitoes hibernated to reappear the next year

Wasn't aware mosquitoes could hibernate!

I was not aware till I come across it. All I know is that they come out with their knives swinging and guns blazing as soon as the first rains touch the ground.

Mosquitoes can be amazingly annoying. I can't but hope for a mosquito free environment! Buh how can dogs be trained to sniff mosquitoes? Or is it only a German Shepard that can do that?

I guess it's proprietary or something along those lines as the method they used was not open for all to see.

Damn! Mosquitoes are indeed truly annoying to say the least. They cause more harm than good(No good at all to me). Sometimes I just wish I could gather all the entire mosquitoes in the whole wide world into a house and just blow up the entire damn structure....arghhhh!

I never thought of blowing them up, but to be honest, it sounds like something if I'm around I won't stop anyone who wanted to do precisely that.

Haha and thank you so much for your high levels of understanding and co-operation!😂

Lol at cooperation, of course, I will definitely cooperate with anyone on such project.

Haha finally! Someone who shares my thoughts and intentions on this subject lol

There is this funny joke about mosquitoes

I man wanted to sleep then he opened the door so that all the mosquitoes will go in and he slept outside

Mosquitoes can be controlled na, everyone is just talking...... Bed bug has not attacked your house,u just have to relocate

Bed bugs are harder to get rid off, but when you do, it is gone forever or, at least, a long time. But you can spray an insecticide this evening; tomorrow the mosquitoes will be back with a vengeance.

Great article! What I don't understand from it is: how a sterile mosquito can pass its genes to next generation, so that next generation is sterile too?

OK, I actually found the answer myself in the sources - you constantly release sterile males over a period of time equal to couple of generations. As the ratio of sterile to fertile eggs is roughly equal to ratio of sterile to fertile males, you quickly get decrease in the numbers of numbers of the insect. The key seems to be to use this method over all affected area, so you don't get migrations from non-treated regions.

I'm glad you finally got the answer, sorry for the late response.

Congratulations fairy... Ur rocking

Hahaha @geetasnani, how have you been? I hope you are doing great.

Thanx fairy i am missing...U Just check.. I have started one contest for Indians... If u just want to see how i am doing...hehe

Very novel-like opening paragraph. And catchy. I like!

Overall an enjoyable article.

I was reminded of a TEDtalk by a hacker, with a lazer-solution to killing mosquitoes! Give it a watch if you haven't already. The mosquito part comes later, around 14th min.

I skipped to the 14th minute; now I'm going back to watch all of the videos. Yes, Bill Gates has tried in fighting malaria in my country and other parts of the world. I like his ideas of killing mosquitoes with a laser. I need one. "Sometimes we overdo it" got me laughing...I need to over kill mosquitoes.