What if mosquitoes were not a threat anymore? The most deadly animal known to man, harmless?

Aedes aegypti CDC-Gathany

Even today, even with deaths down 31% from 2010 to 2019, mosquitoes still kill around 1 million people a year. According to the CDC, in 2020 they killed over 600,000 to malaria alone. Excluding other viruses such as dengue or West Nile virus.

 

But scientists intend to turn their affiliation with viruses into an advantage. By implanting their own virus into mosquitoes, one that can limit the transmissibility of other ones.

 

Wolbachia. A virus preexisting in an abundance of other bugs to the point of it not harming the ecosystem. A virus that can suppress the transmission of viruses. A virus that will be passed down the generations.

 

In Medellin, Colombia, a mosquito factory exists solely for this purpose. To breed enough of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, that will propagate this virus throughout the town. Rather than the insecticide trucks barrelling through the streets, spraying the air and killing the water, mosquito eggs are injected with incredibly fine needles, nurtured, then released. And there were results. Mosquitoes who picked up a virus were less likely to transmit it to humans. In Yogyakarta, Indonesia it worked too.

 

Whilst the A. aegypti mosquito originally originated from Africa, they escaped via the slave trade, and later, would follow the paths of troops in World War II. And now many communities are affected by it.

 

So the introduction of something to suppress these fatal diseases is good, right? 

 

This program is too new. The Wolbachia might work now, but it’s only a matter of time before these viruses mutate and harness the power of the increased number of mosquitoes. “Mosquito populations are increasing and additional methods are needed to control the mosquitos during their adult stage,” the EPA states in regards to the mosquito population in Puerto Rico. And they do not mention the added mosquito populations. If say, dengue mutates, changes even the slightest bit of its genetic code, and Wolbachia no longer works, then we have simply increased the problem, kicking that can down the road.

There is a chance that a virus will mutate every time it duplicates its RNA/DNA, and since it occurs quite frequently, there is a solid chance for a mutation that ignores Wolbachia to become prevalent in mosquitoes. If the epitope (the spike protein that antibodies recognize) in one of the viruses Wolbachia seeks to prevent changes significantly, Wolbachia’s gift will turn back into its weakness. Akin to how old Covid vaccines no longer work, but I digress.

I cannot say for certain that this may occur, but then viruses are like elusive fish: nearly impossible to predict or ensnare, yet still so prominent in its effects. 

 

Please tell me if you think this will work. These studies feel a little too optimistic, but I hope I’m wrong.

 

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