The End of a Pest?
Summer brings better weather, but also seems to deliver a swarm of mosquitos.
Most of those are of no concern to us; of the 3,500 known species of mosquitos, only about 6 percent feed on humans. But that small minority extract a heavy price. "Half of the global population is at risk of a mosquito-borne disease," Frances Hawkes from the Natural Resources Institute at the University of Greenwich tells the BBC. "They have had an untold impact on human misery."
The zika virus is only the latest threat. Mosquitos also spread diseases such as malaria, yellow fever and dengue fever. So would it be ethical to wipe out troublesome varieties of mosquitos for good?
Some scientists from Oxford University and the biotech firm Oxitec think so. They’ve changed the genes of a male mosquito species so its offspring will die before they can reproduce. They’ve set about 3 million such bugs loose in the Cayman Islands, and report a 96 percent drop in mosquitos. A similar trial in Brazil has shown a 92 percent reduction.
As Hawkes concludes, "We are playing an evolutionary game with mosquitoes.” Humanity may be the eventual winner.