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Surprising Science

Vaccinate Mosquitoes Instead of Humans

Scientists researching mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever have recently succeeded at “vaccinating” one generation of mosquito which then passes immunity onto its progeny.

What’s the Big Idea?

Vaccinating humans against disease has proven the most effective method at stopping the spread of contagions, but what about diseases for which there are no vaccines, particularly those animal-borne like malaria, West Nile Virus and dengue fever? Can we coax nature into helping us eradicate disease that neither aids in the survival of animals or humans? Is it worth genetically modifying nature so that it suits us, rather than us accommodating its often harsh realities?

What’s the Most Recent Development?

Two groups of scientists have recently achieved successes against mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever. The Australian scientist Scott O’Neill has found that by injecting mosquitoes with a harmless bacterium, they become resist to and unable to transmit dengue fever. What’s more, they pass on their immunity to future mosquito generations. And last December, a British biotechnology company engineered infertile male mosquitoes, releasing them into the wild on the Grand Cayman Islands and reducing the mosquito population by eighty percent. 

In an effort to curb the spread of dengue fever, scientists are breeding a genetically altered strain of mosquito, the insects which typically carry the disease, to counteract its effects.

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