IRR: Should developing countries continue combating disease using methods belonging to a former time or should more effort be spent on pursuing future solutions?
At former times, as well as currently, people living in developing countries have had numerous fluctuations regarding mosquito regulation and public perception. The issues that need to be addressed by these developing countries are associated with the adverse effects of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are a serious threat because of how they infect organisms with disease and because of their high replacement rate (Riehle 2016).
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control report that insects kill more than one million people a year just through the transmission of malaria. Add to that the numbers of those sickened and killed by other mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever, yellow feve,r and West Nile virus, and it’s easy to see how they earned their dangerous reputation. In recent years the rate of infection has risen dramatically, and a growing number of scientists are now concerned that global warming will translate into an explosive growth of mosquito-borne diseases worldwide.
To properly combat this issue,e people can choose to continue to combat disease using methods belonging to a former time or they can spend more time and effort towards pursuing future solutions.
Vector control technology in the first half of this century was relatively simple, utilizing source reduction, larvivorous fish, petroleum hydrocarbon oils, and some simple synthetic and botanical materials. During the 2nd half of this century, however, various classes of synthetic organic chemicals, improved petroleum oil formulations, insect growth regulators, synthetic pyrethroids, and microbial control agents were developed and employed in mosquito control and control of other disease-vectoring insects.
Among these groups of control agents, petroleum oil formulations have endured being used throughout the whole century (NPR 2016). Likely, petroleum oil formulations, insect growth regulators, and microbial control agents will provide the main thrust against vectors at least during the first quarter of the 21st century. It is also possible that effective tools through the development of vaccines and molecular entomology techniques might become available for the control of vectors and vector-borne diseases during this period of the 21st century.
Two other solutions are seen by scientists as Oxitec planning one of the more likely solutions to be implemented shortly. The first is the nice tool: The sterile Insect Technique. According to L. Alphey, a highly credited researcher and scientist from New Biotechnology, SIT uses radiation to sterilize male flies, which are mass-produced in special rearing facilities. Large numbers of sterile males are then released into a target area, where they mate with wild females. No offspring are produced, and as sterile males gradually outnumber fertile ones, the wild fly population declines over time. The second solution deals with Nematodes. According to L. Alphey, Nematodes are microscopic animals that are usually harmful, causing illness in animals, but beneficial nematodes attack only creatures we want to get rid of, such as grubs or, in this case, mosquitoes. It is more likely that the Sterile Insect Technique will be the most viable of solutions, more viable than Mosquito feeding deterrents and Nematodes.
The Food and Drug Administration is accepting public comments on a proposal from the biotechnology firm Oxitec to introduce genetically modified Aedes aegypti males into the local mosquito population. If Oxitec is successful, its technology could help wipe out Aedes aegypti in the region—and protect people from Zika transmission there. Oxitec plans to inject mosquito eggs with DNA that contains lethal genes, then release the genetically modified males from that batch of eggs so they can mate with wild females. (Males don’t bite; so releasing only males is a way to make sure the release of these insects doesn’t contribute to the spread of disease.) The offspring of these lab-tweaked males and wild females, having inherited the altered DNA, cannot survive to adulthood. If all goes as planned, the mosquito population should shrink as a result.
There’s already good evidence that shows Oxitec’s approach can work. Field tests in Piracicaba, Brazil, resulted in an 82 percent decline in the mosquito population over eight months, Oxitec says. There’s a compelling need for trying to control the mosquito population this way.
Aedes aegypti don’t just spread Zika, but also dengue fever, yellow fever, and chikungunya virus. “About 40 percent of the global population is at risk [from] this species,” said Andrew McKemey, an entomologist and the head of field operations for Oxitec. “It’s kind of the rat of the mosquito world.”
The issue with the solutions that incorporate such new technology and ideas is that the research that backs them generally provides no instances of what the long-term term effects of the solutions are. Jacobs Lorena a scientist who is published in Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology: a book that addresses how to use bacteria to express and display anti-parasite molecules in mosquitoes regarding current and future strategies, states that the reason the masses sometimes tend to avoid these technological and futuristic solutions primarily has to do with how they do not know what to expect and they do not want to risk any more adverse health risks being associated with mosquitoes. “The public fear genetic engineering. Nearly all politicians don’t understand it,” said Arthur Caplan, the founding director of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU School of Medicine. “I don’t think the issue is economic. It is ignorance, distrust, fear of the unknown, fear of prior efforts to use biology to combat pests which went sour.”
Take something like the Zika virus. These diseases can emerge in weeks. Babies are born with deformities. There’s the thought of sexual transmission of a virus that people barely understand. Talk about the fear factor. Then you say, let’s look at the two sides of it; we have some fear about these genetically modified mosquitoes, but we’re terrified of this disease which can spread quickly—and for which there’s no cure and the vaccine is still being developed. If you weigh these, that’s where people might say genetic modification may be the lesser of two evils. Think about how people control mosquitoes now. Dumping pesticides over hundreds of square miles … driving through the city with canisters on motorbikes, spraying willy-nilly. That’s an incredibly toxic approach. As people better understand the side effects of pesticides, they may say, ‘Well, this other way, there’s nothing toxic about it, and no one’s dying from mosquitoes that are sterile.’ The more of the kinds of diseases show up—the more big, big outbreaks around the world—I think there will be a time when people say, ‘We need to try something new.”