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Can 6,000 Mutant Mosquitoes Kill Off Dengue Fever?

Illustration for article titled Can 6,000 Mutant Mosquitoes Kill Off Dengue Fever?

Dengue fever. It causes pain, nausea, and can be deadly. Worst of all, there's no known cure or vaccine. Which is why 6,000 genetically modified mosquitoes are being deployed in Malaysia to kill of dengue at the root.

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Dengue gets passed around by the female Aedes aegypti mosquito, commonly found in Southeast Asia. The 6,000 mosquitoes in question are all males, scientifically engineered to have shorter lifespans—meaning they won't be around long enough to do much damage. By driving down the mosquito population, scientists hope to curb Dengue fever if not eliminate it entirely.

All of which has lead to some ethical concerns among locals and outside observers. Can we really fuss with the gene pool of a species so brazenly? And while adding 6,000 mosquitoes to the mix may help stem Dengue fever, it also, uh, adds a lot of mosquitoes to a place that's already riddled with the pests. Still, I'd rather a quick bite from a harmless bug than a horrible, life-threatening disease. [AFP Fast Company]

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DISCUSSION

"And while adding 6,000 mosquitoes to the mix may help stem Dengue fever, it also, uh, adds a lot of mosquitoes to a place that's already riddled with the pests. Still, I'd rather a quick bite from a harmless bug than a horrible, life-threatening disease."

Actually no. Male mosquitoes don't bite. The females only bite right before they lay eggs and w hen they m ate with an infertile male, all those eggs are gone.

Releasing infertile males is a tactic that has been tried many times to reduce mosquito populations. However, in this instance, the article doesn't say they're infertile. It sounds, in fact, like these male mosquitoes are meant to pass on their genes and that their offspring will have a shortened lifespan, but perhaps will still be able to reproduce? It's not entirely clear from the summary.