Only female mosquitoes bite, bringing various diseases that can cause deadly consequences—chikungunya, dengue, yellow fever, malaria, Zika, and West Nile viruses, depending on the type of mosquito that bit.
Mosquitoes have since been a global nuisance. Thousands of years way back, and now we can see how effectively they have evolved and adapted to every climate. They have been there in every world event and are still here to bug us all. Their major part in American history would be the death toll they have inflicted upon American soldiers during the wars.
One of Bill Gates’ blogs writes about mosquitoes being the greatest foe of American soldiers during the war, even causing more casualties than bullets and bombs in most conflicts. More than a million from the Union troops caught malaria during the civil war. Then, there were 700,000 cases in WWII. In the present, one American soldier out of 20 deployed in Afghanistan fought against malaria.
Mosquitoes will always be there, so science has to come to the rescue. Otherwise, we’ll have this problem for generations—even worse for countries susceptible to lethal mosquitoes, including Central America, South America, Mexico, plenty of Asian countries, and Africa.
Understanding Mosquitoes: Why They Carry Diseases
Female mosquitoes bite to get the nutrients they need to develop their eggs. From their lifespan of between three and a hundred days, they’d already be able to lay three thousand eggs and more.
They just don’t feed on humans but also birds, reptiles, or other mammals. When they bite animals that carry the dengue or malaria parasite, they pick those up then transfer those parasites to their next victims.
This is how people contract dengue, yellow fever, and malaria. Every year, a whopping number of 700 million people get mosquito-related diseases. Most likely, deaths will disturbingly reach from 800,000 to one million.
Given this huge casualty, the twenty-first century delves into deep vector or mosquito control through various innovations from mosquito DNA alterations and vaccination to special repellents.
Innovative Discoveries on the Rise for Mitigating Mosquito Threats
The solution might not be about eliminating mosquitoes altogether. Nuisance as they are, especially the ones that do bite, they still claim their purpose in the ecosystem. They’re what insect-eating animals feed on, such as bats, birds, spiders, and adult dragonflies. Surprisingly, they also help pollinate certain flowers.
There are several smart methods on the rise. All of them are proven to be effective and yet are still lesser-known compared to mosquito insecticides—larvicides, adulticides, and synergists, which can significantly harm the environment. Non-toxic products like mosquito traps and attractants aim to lessen the impact of mosquitoes’ deadly bites without harming the environment.
Here are some recent discoveries that prove to be trailblazers on mitigating the impact of mosquito threat:
1. Altering DNA
One promising innovation is modifying mosquito genes in different ways. In the Cayman Islands, in 2010, more than three million mosquito males were reengineered to be sterile then released. When they mate, the females won’t be able to produce offspring. This successfully dropped a vast percentage of the population on the island.
Another way scientists reengineer mosquitoes is by instilling a new genetic trait that reduces their offspring’s ability to spread malaria. Scientists also hope to release into the wild genetically engineered mosquitoes that can cause female mosquitoes to die while yet in the embryonic stage. This will then result in a major sex imbalance in the area where such mosquitoes are released.
2. Introducing Wolbachia Bacteria
Wolbachia is a bacterium found in many species and mosquito types except Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes. Later on, scientists discovered that when Wolbachia is introduced to the Aedes Aegypti, it prevents human viruses from growing.
In one of the same approaches above, scientists also plan to release millions of Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes injected with Wolbachia, which will hinder the females’ ability to reproduce when they mate.
3. The Vaccine Called AGS-v
Aside from altering DNAs, another way to mitigate the impact of deadly mosquito bites is through a vaccine called AGS-v, which is developed by SEEK pharmacy in London. They claim the vaccine to be able to protect humans against plenty of mosquito-borne diseases.
It triggers the human body’s immune response against the mosquito saliva and hinders any infection it can cause. The pharmacy also believes that the vaccine can kill the mosquitoes themselves after they bite a vaccinated person.
Toward Mitigating Mosquito Threats
All this research seems promising, and more will continue to emerge. We all hope for a day we are less susceptible to mosquito-borne diseases or any other disease-transmitting bugs.