Mosquitoes are some of the most abundant and dangerous sources of disease across the world. Each year, approximately 700 million people get a mosquito-borne illness, and over 100 million die from it. And while the mosquito population is rising, so is the risk of contracting an illness from them. In order to reduce the risk, insecticides are proven to be effective at reducing mosquito population, but at a high cost to the environment. Instead, scientists are now looking at using mosquito birth control to lessen the population and reduce mosquito-borne illnesses.
Mosquitoes are rapid at reproducing. Each female mosquito is capable of laying over 100 eggs at a time, and the eggs can latch into larvae in roughly one day. It's this quick rate of reproduction that scientists are aiming to manage with their new method of mosquito birth control.
Mosquito Birth Control Method
With the impressive number of eggs that mosquitoes can lay at a time, getting their reproduction under control is crucial. After researching the female mosquito's reproductive system, scientists were able to pinpoint a specific protein responsible for egg production. This protein is called Eggshell Organizing Factor 1, or EOF-1.
When the researchers actively blocked the EOF-1 protein, the female mosquitoes were only able to lay defective egg shells. As a result, the embryos do not survive, due to the protein-blocking drug. According to a report by PLOS Biology, this drug will only affect mosquitoes and not any other organisms. This is because the EOF-1 protein is only found in mosquitoes, so the drug's protein-blocking effects would not do anything to other organisms.
By blocking the EOF-1 protein, female mosquitoes are unable to lay eggs that will hatch.
Interestingly, female mosquitoes are also the only ones who bite and suck blood. This means that the female mosquito is responsible for the transmission of diseases and illnesses, such as malaria. But, with this new protein-blocking discovery, the female mosquitoes would be targeted and rendered unable to reproduce.
Another benefit of mosquito birth control is the eliminated need of insecticides. Over time, insecticides have proven to be less effective than originally thought. With the extensive use of insecticides (especially in the tropical regions of the world), mosquitoes are building up a tolerance. Not only are the insecticides not working properly, but they are also killing off beneficial insects as well. And, certain pesticides only affect a certain genus of mosquito, which leaves humans vulnerable to all of the other disease-carrying ones.
The toxicity of insecticides is also wreaking havoc on the environment. Farmers and home owners are spraying pesticides in hopes of reducing the mosquito population. While it may be killing off some of the insects, it is also leaking toxic chemicals into the soil, water, and the food we eat. The results include contamination of groundwater, soil infertility, and a host of health issues for humans.
There are numerous different diseases that are a direct result of mosquito bites. Many of them are proven to be deadly, especially in countries lacking in medical resources. Some of the most dangerous include Dengue Fever, malaria, Zika Virus, and West Nile. Just a simple complication with any of these conditions can result in death, and many people lack access to proper treatment. All it takes is a single bite to create some serious, life-threatening medical issues.
Mosquitoes can transmit deadly diseases from just one bite. Getting their population under control could save millions of lives.
Repelling mosquitoes isn't an easy task either. In some warmer countries, mosquitoes are so prevalent that keeping them off of the body is impossible both indoors and out. Mosquitoes are also known to bite during the day and the nighttime, and often hibernate indoors during colder seasons, according to the CDC.
Although malaria has long been considered the most prevalent and dangerous mosquito-borne illness, another disease is alarmingly on the rise: chikungunya. This disease manifests with headaches, joint pain, and high fevers. Originally only found in Asia, Africa, and India, chikungunya is now possible to contract in the United States as well. Since this mosquito-borne disease is spreading, an incredible amount of cases worldwide are being reported. In fact, it is estimated that every 4 minutes, a case of chikungunya is confirmed.
Getting the mosquito population under control has the potential to cut down the disease numbers drastically. Even if a relatively small amount of mosquitoes are infected with the virus, there is still an enormous risk of it spreading through the human host. If a human is bitten by a mosquito with the virus, they will then host the virus within their body for up to 3 weeks. During this time, any other mosquito who bites the human will also be infected with the virus, passing it onto their next victim.
A mosquito who bites a human with a virus has the potential to spread it to their next victim, all from a single bite.
But, if the mosquito population declines, the chances of spreading diseases like chikungunya is reduced. Researchers are narrowing their search to 3 different types of mosquitoes as well. These include the Aedes, Culex, and Anopheles genus, which are the 3 types of mosquitoes that transmit harmful illnesses to humans. Once the mosquito population is reduced, the scientists will be able to implement their new mosquito birth control method. Ultimately, this could break the cycle of disease between mosquitoes and humans.
Currently, the research team is looking into making this protein-blocking mosquito birth control into a commercialized and applicable product. If the testing is successful, this new technology has the potential to save millions of lives across the world, and put an end to the mosquito-borne disease epidemic.