Engineering A Frightening Mosquito-Borne Cure: Chinese Scientists Release Some 3 Million Bacteria-Infected Mosquitoes Every Week Trying To Kill Dengue, Zika

That’s A Lot Of Bugs: Chinese Scientists Release Some 3 Million Mosquitoes Injected With Bacteria Each Week In A Bid To Kill Dengue, Zika Virus

Beware of scientists who come bearing mosquitoes.

There is a secretive program ongoing in China right now, in which scientists are attempting to use mosquitoes’ ability to rapidly breed against them in a bid to kill dengue fever, yellow fever and even the Zika virus.

Every week, scientists in southern China release some 3 million of the bugs onto a three kilometer long island in an attempt to snuff out diseases carried by other, wild-born critters.

The lab-adjusted mosquitoes are injected with wolbachia bacteria in the lab, then the males of the species–which don’t suck blood like their female counterparts are released on an island on the outskirts of the city of Guangzhou.


The bacteria, found in some 28 percent of wild mosquitoes causes infected males to sterilize the females with whom they mate, thus holding down the overall population numbers.

“The aim is trying to suppress the mosquito density below the threshold which can cause disease transmission,” said Zhiyong Xi in a Reuters interview. He is director of the Sun Yat-sen University Centre of Vector Control for Tropical Diseases and pioneer of the idea of releasing infected bugs into the wild. “There are hot spots. This technology can be used at the beginning to target the hot spots … it will dramatically reduce disease transmission.”

And while there is no doubt that mosquito-borne diseases such as yellow fever and dengue fever among others are responsible for some million deaths a year, the current flap around Zika–especially as the world’s attention turns to Brazil as the Olympic games get underway–could cause such mosquito population control programs to be ramped up all over the world.

The problem of course is that there is no proven link between Zika and microcephaly, not yet. However that hasn’t stopped scientists from claiming that such a link exists, despite the fact that Zika has been identified for nearly 50 years in both Africa and South America, and no known link between microcephaly and Zika has been posited prior to 2015.

What we don’t hear about is the massive insecticide spraying programs being conducted in the very same parts of Brazil where the microcephaly cases have sprung up.

What you can expect to hear is a drumbeat of justification for such engineering to be brought online in the U.S. and other places as the voices that are sounding the Zika alarms gain more and more traction.

We should think long and hard before interfering with nature in this way. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should–especially when there is little evidence that the disease is in any way related to the microcephaly.

Beware of scientists who come bearing mosquitoes.

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