(Before getting too far into this article, watch this great video by Kurzgesagt about the genetic engineering of mosquitos)
Should we genetically engineer mosquitos to be unable to carry malaria in order to save 500,000 lives every year with unknown side effects, such as the evolution of the malaria parasite itself, or should we work slowly to find a cure and work on prevention?
If it works we can use the technology to prevent Zika, Lyme disease, and many other diseases spread through insects. But if it doesn’t it could put us back at square one when conquering one of the world’s deadliest diseases.
I personally am all for it since it doesn’t hurt the mosquito population and there are very few risks, but that’s just me. There are scientists out there looking into what it would take to completely get rid of mosquitos and what the outcome of that would look like. (Surprisingly little actually).
Humans have been working on eradicating diseases for almost a century. So far, polio and small pox have been wiped off the earth. Measle, rubella, chicken pox and many other diseases that you get vaccinated for have also been on their way out. However, the anti-vax campaign went and ruined that progress with whooping cough and measles have been on the rise ever since.
With gene editing being such a new field, scientists studying these things don’t know the answer. This could cause future outbreaks to be much worse if the malaria parasite mutates faster than the mosquitos spread. Or this could cause other, unknown diseases to be carried by mosquitos. Or, maybe a new species of giant mosquitos that kill humans in one sip will arise (doubtful, but terrifying).
Yet the benefits would be millions of lives saved and the eradication of the deadliest disease in human history. We could take this technology and use it in the cases of Zika, Lyme disease, the black plague, and many more diseases. Maybe even use it to help humans become immune to HIV/AIDS and fight against new superbugs.
So should scientists as a small group take action in defeating a disease that infects 2 million people every year? Or should we rely on the population to vaccinate themselves and their children from these diseases? What do you think? Do the risks outweigh the benefits or vice versa?