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GM mosquitos a 'quantum leap' towards tackling malaria


nuckin_futz

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GM Mosquitos Could Eradicate Wild Populations By Only Producing Male Offspring

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Over 200 million people are infected by malaria each year, and the majority of the 627,000 deaths per year are children younger than five. The disease is carried by mosquitos who act as vectors for the parasite. It's only transmitted to humans by female mosquitoes, as they're the only ones who bite. A team of researchers led by Andrea Crisanti of the Imperial College London managed to genetically modify mosquitos to produce 95% male offspring, eliminating mosquito populations along with the risk of malaria. The results of the study were published in Nature Communications.

In most species of mosquito, the females need a blood meal in order to acquire the nutrients to create viable eggs. When she does, she can lay about 200 eggs at a time in water, and up to 3,000 eggs over the course of her lifetime. About half of those offspring will be daughters, many of whom will live long enough to produce that amount of offspring also. For humans living near mosquitos carrying the parasite that causes malaria, those numbers of female mosquitos present a very real threat.

But what if the numbers could be skewed so that the sex ratio favors males, who are harmless to humans? This is exactly what Crisanti’s team set out to do with Anopheles gambiae, a species of mosquito endemic to sub-Saharan Africa, where 95% of malaria deaths occur. The researchers modified the males with the enzyme I-Ppol, which excises the X chromosome during spermatogenesis. This renders sperm that would produce daughters to be non-functional, while the sperm that will create male offspring are unaffected. As a result, about 95% of the resulting offspring are male.

Next, modified males were introduced to five caged wild-type populations. As the males mated with the females, they passed along the same mutation until it dominated the population. For four of the five populations, it took only six generations for the mosquitos to die out due to a lack of females.

“What is most promising about our results is that they are self-sustaining,” co-author Nikolai Windbichler said in a press release. “Once modified mosquitoes are introduced, males will start to produce mainly sons, and their sons will do the same, so essentially the mosquitoes carry out the work for us.”

This study was the first to successfully manipulate mosquito sex ratios, and it was done in a big way. The researchers hope that this information will be used to develop genetic mutations to be used in the wild, bringing large populations of mosquitos to their knees.

“The research is still in its early days, but I am really hopeful that this new approach could ultimately lead to a cheap and effective way to eliminate malaria from entire regions,” added lead author Roberto Galizi. “Our goal is to enable people to live freely without the threat of this deadly disease.”

Of course, while eradicating the mosquitos would be fantastic for eliminating the threat of malaria, what other affects would it have? Wouldn’t there be harsh consequences for the ecosystem? After all, mosquitos have been on the planet for about 100 million years and represent 3,500 species. As it turns out, mosquitos wouldn’t really be missed if they were to disappear. While mosquitos can act as pollinators as well as a food source for other animals, their absence would be merely a temporary setback before another species filled the niche. Of course, there is a gamble in assuming the replacement organism would be harmless.

“Malaria is debilitating and often fatal and we need to find new ways of tackling it. We think our innovative approach is a huge step forward. For the very first time, we have been able to inhibit the production of female offspring in the laboratory and this provides a new means to eliminate the disease,” Crisanti explained.

Each year, sub-Saharan Africa loses about $12 billion in economic productivity due to malarial infections. Considering developed areas in these countries have per capita incomes of about US$1500, this would have very real implications for the quality of life for people in those areas. Eliminating that disease would also allow doctors and hospitals to address other health concerns, and the environment would likely benefit from not having to use insecticides.

Read more at http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/gm-mosquitos-could-eradicate-wild-populations-only-producing-male-offspring#XYbq7QBD3Z0Ksqf8.99

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The possibilities for this science are endless. Imagine if this could be done with dbags, deadbeats, racists, thugs etc.

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So in essence eradicating and making that species extinct?

I hate mosquitoes as much as the next guy, but I wonder about the ecological implications. I'd need more information about the roles of mosquitoes in their ecosystem before I'd be able to say this is good or bad.

I would assume the majority of people will simply think "great, no more mosquitoes, malaria, or dengue fever!", but anytime you play god, there are repercussions that we can't always foresee.

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I am sure scientists more educated than either of us combined have looked at all those ways plus a hundred more. Clearly the cost is outweighed by the massive benefits

The negative would be overpopulation of humans especially in 3rd world countries like Africa. The mosquitoes I guess kind of control the human population and keep it in check. If this is successful, instead of 5 year old African children dying of Malaria, they would be dying of starvation and the African population would suddenly explode.

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So in essence eradicating and making that species extinct?

I hate mosquitoes as much as the next guy, but I wonder about the ecological implications. I'd need more information about the roles of mosquitoes in their ecosystem before I'd be able to say this is good or bad.

I would assume the majority of people will simply think "great, no more mosquitoes, malaria, or dengue fever!", but anytime you play god, there are repercussions that we can't always foresee.

Well, it does affect the ecosystem as I said. Mosquitoes are the number 1 killer of human beings and they are the ones that keep the human population in check. Getting rid of them would essentially mean a sharp increase in human population.

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So in essence eradicating and making that species extinct?

I hate mosquitoes as much as the next guy, but I wonder about the ecological implications. I'd need more information about the roles of mosquitoes in their ecosystem before I'd be able to say this is good or bad.

I would assume the majority of people will simply think "great, no more mosquitoes, malaria, or dengue fever!", but anytime you play god, there are repercussions that we can't always foresee.

This was my point. You don't just break the food chain for our personal benefit.

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nothing went wrong when they cross bred African and European bees did it?

So what could possibly go wrong with this idea.?

Scene of Jeff Goldblum as Dr Ian Malcom from Jurrasic Park

" So busy seeing if you can do something you never stop to think SHOULD we do something"

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So in essence eradicating and making that species extinct?

I hate mosquitoes as much as the next guy, but I wonder about the ecological implications. I'd need more information about the roles of mosquitoes in their ecosystem before I'd be able to say this is good or bad.

I would assume the majority of people will simply think "great, no more mosquitoes, malaria, or dengue fever!", but anytime you play god, there are repercussions that we can't always foresee.

So very much this.

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nothing went wrong when they cross bred African and European bees did it?

So what could possibly go wrong with this idea.?

Scene of Jeff Goldblum as Dr Ian Malcom from Jurrasic Park

" So busy seeing if you can do something you never stop to think SHOULD we do something"

Well the "should" is pretty damn strong in this case.

But yeah, erradicating a species from an ecosystem is a difficult proposition. Makes the "should we" part a lot more iffy. I'd say there are smart enough people working on this that they can analyse the fallout of an action that drastic, but there's always the chance that things get worse.

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I guess when you think of it as a human population control, there is a case for not doing it. But humanity should get to the point where we take population control into our own hands without requiring people losing family members to horrible diseases.

But I would think Africa has more.than one species of mosquito, so if one were eradicated, the others may take their place, providing food for predators while not transmitting malaria?

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Also I was walking my dog last night and I accidentally swallowed a mosquito who flew right into my mouth as I was walking. Will I get Malaria?

No, but you might catch a slight buzz....

I agree with inane. This sounds good on the surface, but messing with the food chain could have far-reaching implications that we may not discover until it's too late.

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Also I was walking my dog last night and I accidentally swallowed a mosquito who flew right into my mouth as I was walking. Will I get Malaria?

Well, the Anopheles breed of mosquitoes that carry Malaria are night-biters...but unless you are in a tropical/subtropical region then highly, highly likely no need to worry and not to mention you'd need to be bitten.

Funny how it works though...get bitten by a mosquito is super common but get it here and it's itchy and annoying for a couple of days. Get bitten by a mosquito in a tropical/subtropical area and it could knock you on your face for two weeks (and that's if you're lucky).

I never had Malaria but have a good friend who has. He got infected with his friend at the same time. His friend died and he survived.

I have had Dengue fever though, it was a parting gift from Indonesia (I got bitten at the end of my stay) and let me tell you how fun times that was.

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"I'd say there are smart enough people working on this that they can analyse the fallout of an action that drastic, but there's always the chance that things get worse."

An officer I once worked with used to say " It's not the odds of something happening that's important, it's the consequences if it does".

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This is by far your most idiotic post, out of all the ones I've disagreed with to date. You, along with some other usually sensible posters, are insensitive to the plight of the majority of the world. What kind of disillusioned self righteousness does one need to have to see getting rid of malaria as a stepping stone for human greed and depravity? Can you imagine how insensitive it'd sound if someone said about cancerous diseases "Why bother trying to fix it? Why fund research? It's just a way of keeping your rich fat old asses in control in the first world anyway lel"?

It doesn't actually get rid of malaria FWIW. Just the carrier. Cancer isn't given to people by another species we share this planet with. Poor analogy

Here, in a thread outlining what could possibly be a Nobel prize in physiology and medicine in the future with as much potential impact as Salk's polio vaccine, we have naive first world whiners using the same rhetoric they always use whenever "genetically modified" is a term that is part of the topic. Not only are most of you absolutely illiterate when it comes to understanding basic ecological principles, the pathology and transfer of malaria disease; most of you are too lazy to even google that stuff up before you write all these half assed half truths.

OP's poor choice of article is partly to blame but let me clear some stuff up before you go on chest thumping about some sacred ass "food chain".

1. ecology 101: when one niche (ecological role) is left empty, some other similar species takes up that same role in that geographical area

With unknown, long term consequences.

2. this proposal outlines modifying only the Anopheles subspecies capable of transferring malaria. There are about 460 subspecies in the world, and out of that only 30-40 transfer Plasmodium, These aren't evil scientists hell bent on annihilating every mosquito ever. Majority of these subspecies ecological niches can be readily filled by the other subspecies of Anopheles that are not capable of transferring malaria

With unknown, long term consequences.

3. Pre 1950's, majority of the Americas and Europe also suffered from malaria disease as well. Vector control (hm, I wonder what they are doing here) and better sanitation combined is why you are all grown men who have no idea what the hell this disease is. Yes, the Anopheles subspecies that transferred malaria here do not exist anymore. Did the world end because of that?

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC126857/pdf/0033.pdf

Do your research before you open your mouth. Stupidity pisses me off.

Nobody's claiming the world's going to end. It's a question of what right do humans have to mess with nature to such vast degrees?

I suppose you could argue that we're already changing the climate, destroying habitats, polluting oceans etc so heck, what's one subspecies of mosquito (an un-liked pest anyway)?

Myself, I think we already do enough damage and should be minimizing our impacts on our planet, not extending them. Working with nature, not against it. It's the opposite of the philosophy I happen to subscribe to.

How many historical examples of humans "fixing" problems in nature and having negative unintended consequences (like say invasive species) do you need before admitting that maybe us interfering and powering our way through under the banner of science and progress isn't always a good idea?

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