Public: Welfare
Breed Safe Mosquitoes   (+1, -1)  [vote for, against]
The most dangerous animal on Earth (other than man) is the mosquito. But this is only because the mosquito is used by eg plasmodium as a vector. So outbreed the infected mosquitoes to defeat malaria.

If you're a talented insect breeder, this might even be bakable[??], because Bill and Melinda Gates have examined their ambitions and decided to give becoming worth something more to all humanity, a go. Their foundation funds this kind of thing.

The breeding part of the idea seems quite simple. Create nice habitat for feedlot densities of anopheles mosquitoes, separated from wild mosquitoes. When it gets going, start to ship bags of larvae to your target areas.

The difficult part would be in swamping the wild populations in such a way as not to introduce the malaria parasite into your domestic mosquitoes. The problem is that any person (or also perhaps animal) in a fever, bitten by a mosquito, will infect that mosquito. And then that mosquito will go on to bite the next person, and pass on the parasite.

So mosquito introductions would need to be done before the start of the season? (To give the clean mozzies a head start).

Definitely, this would have to go hand in hand with overkill treatment measures in the particular area being focused on. All new infections would need to be caught early. I think a large village might be the ideal target pilot test community. (Not too few people to dent the infected mosquito range, but not too many to achieve the co-operation needed.)

One thing that makes me doubt the prospects of success is that these days people sometimes contract malaria in the Kruger Park. The story is that there are so many Mozambican illegal immigrants passing through that they've re-introduced malaria to the area, but I find that hard to believe. So if there aren't humans infecting the mosquitoes, maybe it's the monkeys or baboons? Or the birds? It is a half-baked, rather than a baked idea.

Anyway, the idea would be to pick places at the edges of the malaria area, hit those hard, move forward, monitor the places you've been, and roll it forward.

Hmm ... yes, another fly in this ointment is that the cops would quickly get to work squeezing bribes out of the people doing this, too. (My brother had to pay 5 bribes to bribe-hunters in Mozambique on a recent visit. He's giving it up, as a consequence.)
-- skoomphemph, Apr 01 2014

Kill 'em all http://www.radiolab.../story/kill-em-all/
GM mosquitoes with self destruct [the porpoise, Apr 01 2014]

[bs0u0155, Apr 01 2014]

Malaria life cycle
Mosquitos become infected with malaria as adults. [spidermother, Apr 02 2014]

Baked by Oxford University spinout Oxitec. [theleopard, Aug 11 2015]

This isn't a bad idea, but there are a lot of schemes being looked at which focus on the mosquitoes rather than the parasite.

These include swamping the mosquito population with sterile insects (to cause population collapse), and more ingenious schemes using GM mosquitoes whose offspring are infertile, and many others. People have also looked at ways to make the mosquitoes resistant to the Plasmodium parasite.

I'm not completely convinced that adding large numbers of Plasmodium-free mozzies will solve the problem - I think you'd just get a population bubble for one generation, with people being bitten more often (though often by non- Plasmodium-bearing mozzies), after which you'd be back to square zero.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 01 2014

"Kill 'em all ! "
-- 8th of 7, Apr 01 2014

What 8th said. [link]
-- the porpoise, Apr 01 2014

Could it be that a mixture of sterile-offspring and viable-offspring Plasmodium free might work? Or an alternation?

1. Provide volunteered blood meals to a mixture of such wild mosquitoes as one can lure out, and GM mozzies, with the aim of x-percent sterile offspring in the cycle. Do this in the low season so as to start the high season with reduced wild stocks.

2. As the season arrives, bring on the clean mozzies. Actually the aim is to spread their lavae, since it probably matters more to occupy the best bits of stagnant water than to get the best access to blood meals. The volunteers wouldn't have to feed wild mozzies at this phase.

3. It may be a good idea to have sterile-offspring phases during the season, just to bring down the numbers of mosquitoes on the wing.

I live in what used to be a malaria area, and not that far from what has once again become one. I get bitten quite often by Anopheles mosquitoes, but don't get malaria because the infected mosquitoes haven't reached here, yet. They can't be destroyed, but whatever makes an anti-malaria program successful results in a population of clean mosquitoes in the end.

I just don't much like the idea of DDT being used here again.

As for the bubble, if that bubble rolled forward like a wave, surely that would be enough to beat the problem?

Anyway, predictably, the really smart people are onto this already.

---- Half-way through Kill-em-all I'm a creeped out. Mosquitoes are part of the ecosystem. The larvae do all sorts of useful things for ... Life ...

Slightly beyond halfway, however, this gets into the podcast, however, so I'll just shut up about this.
-- skoomphemph, Apr 01 2014

What's needed is a nasty mosquito killing virus that uses Plasmodium as a vector. In this way, the mosquito would get a taste of its own medicine. The mosquito would feel selective pressure to not die of the virus. It has a couple of routes at this point: 1. become resistant to the virus, 2. become resistant to Plasmodium.

Humans will be around with our genetic wizardry to make sure #1 isn't an option.
-- bs0u0155, Apr 01 2014

//Mosquitoes are part of the ecosystem. The larvae do all sorts of useful things for ... Life ...//

Actually, certain mosquitoes have been considered for deliberate extinction precisely because they play no significant role in their ecosystem, at least as far as we know.

Some mosquito species are pollinators, and some are important food for aquatic animals and for birds, but the most malaria-bearing species could disappear with relatively minor impact and huge benefits to people.

Given the number of good and innocent species we've exterminated, I think the idea of exterminating a handful of mosquito species ought to be considered seriously. Nobody mourned the smallpox virus.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 01 2014

I would bet five of my hard-earned dollars that all of these people doing all this expensive research involving not killing mosquitos grew up in places that don't have mosquitos, like the Atacama Desert or the United Kingdom.

Nothing that eats mosquitos thrives exclusively upon them. No other species rely upon them for survival. They are unnecessary to this world (as are many other organisms). People seem to think that eradicating an entire species will irrevocably imbalance the ecosystem causing all pregnant women to miscarry followed by the explosion of the Earth's core.

If somebody halfbakes a genetically modified flamethrower that incinerates both mosquitos and people who are famous for no reason, I'll bun that.
-- Alterother, Apr 01 2014

Someone will eventually invent the perfect mosquito annihilator, and we can be sure that someone will launch it. It's really only a matter of time before mosquitoes are wiped out or demilitarized.

The thing about ecosystems is that, if mosquitoes are extincted, another insect will fill the gap. Maybe not perfectly and maybe not immediately, but almost certainly with less danger to people.
-- the porpoise, Apr 01 2014

//all of these people doing all this expensive research involving not killing mosquitos grew up in places that don't have mosquitos, like the Atacama Desert or the United Kingdom.//

Having met some of them, yes, that does seem to be the case. However, since the areas worst affected by mosquito-borne diseases tend to be poor countries with bad infrastructure, that's not surprising.

The people I've met (including the head of the research group mentioned in [porpoise]'s link) are not all wishy-washy about ecology. They are very well aware that children die every few minutes from mosquito-borne diseases, and seek only to stop this by whatever is the most expedient means.

//if mosquitoes are extincted, another insect will fill the gap// It's not even a question of filling a gap. Disease-carrying mosquitoes are often a minority species anyway - the vast majority of mosquitoes do no harm to humans and wouldn't need to be eradicated. And those that are eradicated are mainly filling the ecological niche of sucking blood and vectoring disease.

Agonising about extincting a few mosquito species is a bit like agonising over whether to use new antibiotics to wipe out MRSA, or a new vaccine to eradicate SARS.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 01 2014

//      not all wishy-washy about ecology //

Maybe I overreacted. The particular slice of wilderness in which my home lies is beset with people trying to 'save' it, many of whom do not live here and cannot state in any kind of detail what they are saving my home from (from me, perhaps). Greeny-mee-mees get under my bonnet sometimes. I'm sorry if anyone in here got hit by the shrapnel.
-- Alterother, Apr 01 2014

Ah - maybe we're in agreement after all. As you were.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 01 2014

In that case, please pass the flamethrower.
-- Alterother, Apr 01 2014

I like this: <link>. Proof that almost any problem can be solved with lasers and/or imaging. I'd have thought that listening for the annoying whine they make would be better than waiting for them to cross a fence.
-- bs0u0155, Apr 01 2014

Mosquitoes make wine? HEY, SHUT THAT FLAMETHROWER OFF!!
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 01 2014

The cheap way to tackle malaria is with DDT. It's crude and washes up all over the place. I'm inclined to believe the greenies on this option.

However, if DDT really is the answer, I would say that at least to begin with, it should be coupled with another part of the answer: Urbanisation. Having a 70% rural population just makes everything more difficult than it needs to be. Put all the effort into the cities, and leave the countryside to fend for itself (until such time as you conjure up limitless resources).

It's been a while since I did this, but things are probably much the same today: Drive through the city before dawn, here, and you'll see some sidewalks lined with sleeping men. It's a kind of open air dormitory. And one of the things that have occurred to me, seeing this, is "This is better than life in the countryside". They know what they're about. Most come from the beautiful green hills out there toward the mountains (etc), but even living on the street is better than the world the sentimental would choose.

So the logical choice seems to be: Make cities habitable, and fix what remains of the countryside when that's done. This is a bit of a distance from the malaria question, but IMHO it's the step that comes before the malaria programme.

I'm imagining that mosquito breeding would be a reasonably cheap alternative - especially if all you do is select for being disease-free. It may not be as effective as I'd imagined, but that's a different club of seals.

More expensive GM mosquitoes pay their way by adding to the store of knowledge.

--- Edit.--- It's just occurred to me that if you increased (safe) mosquito populations enough, you'd make people take more steps to prevent being bitten. (This wouldn't work on the shores of Lake Malawi, where there are already more mosquitos than oxygen molecules, but in most places it ought to have at least some effect.)
-- skoomphemph, Apr 01 2014

// Put all the effort into the cities, and leave the countryside to fend for itself (until such time as you conjure up limitless resources).    //

If we simple country folk weren't already putting most of our effort into your precious cities in one way or another, the countryside would be our limitless resource and we'd fend for ourselves just fine.

Stick that up your urbanization!
-- Alterother, Apr 01 2014

Unless I am mistaken, no mosquito is born able to spread plasmodium.

Therefore simply breeding disease free mosquitoes does not protect people in any way. It's not like a human can only be bitten once, so introducing more mosquitoes actually increases the risk of spread, by increasing the chance of infected, then uninfected victims.

Apparently, however, there are efforts to breed/engineer anopheles mosquitoes that cannot transmit malaria, which is something different.
-- MechE, Apr 01 2014

Certainly Plasmodium resistant (whether by GM, selection pressure, etc) would be preferable to mere disease-freeness.

The idea of the disease-free mosquito would be that in the larval stage it competes with the larvae of the wild mosquitoes. In season, it could very well be that to a reasonable approximation there are an infinite number of stagnant ponds for mosquitoes to live out most of their lives in, but if not, the extra mosquitoes would put pressure on the infected ones.

[Alterother], the countryside works fine for country folk supported by urban facilities like good quality GM seed, tractors, etc. When it comes to going back to self-sufficiency, while it's quite survivable, it's survival at a precarious 3rd World level of comfort and security. I've seen a little bit of actual self-sufficiency, and often it's ... insufficient ... (hence the continual backlog of urban housing here). Probably the cruelest thing our previous government did was to try to force people to live the life, living off the land. In contrast to the urban migration that has resulted from that lid being lifted, things are quieter in the country now. A positive is that places that used to be grazed bald, and were bleeding away now have some grass on them.
-- skoomphemph, Apr 01 2014

This idea simply wasn't making sense to me until the last two annotations.

As [MechE] implied, mosquitos become infected as adults; wild larvae, and newly emerged adults, are uninfected. There are some diseases that are transmitted to the offspring, but malaria in mosquitos is not one of them.
-- spidermother, Apr 02 2014

Ah ... All right, so my problem is that I "knew for sure" that malarial mosquitoes become infected at the larval stage, whereas in fact this only happens when they're adult. Clunk. Penny drops.

Well this means malaria is much more containable than I thought, unless there are other species that also act as hosts.

It also deepens the mystery of the Kruger Park malaria (in the absence of non-human hosts).

Consider this. AFAIK, Anopheles is inactive during the day, and gets most active just after sundown. Tourists come from malaria-free places, so there's no pool of malaria among them. And after dark, most of the staff have long since left to the staff villages, some distance away from the tourists. Add to this the probability that the Park has a very active in-house anti-malaria program, and I would think this would be enough to make the place malaria-free (even with lots of illegals taking their chances with the wildlife, and passing through.)

So how does it happen that every so often, Park regulars (like guides) pick up malaria there?

Just not to end off-topic, it would seem to me that the way to end malaria would be something like the all-urban approach, extended to wilder places. Hit the edges of malaria hard, focusing on eliminating the disease in human populations entirely, and roll a front forward from here. This approach would nicely fit in with South African national self-interest, actually. Push the malaria line back into Mozambique and Zimbabwe, and then offer to sort out their border regions. And then borders of the border regions, and so on.

It's quite scandalous that malaria still exists, given all the obstacles the parasite must overcome.
-- skoomphemph, Apr 02 2014

I think the problem with nets is that they require constant discipline over long periods. All it takes is one good party to make lots of adults careless; and children wouldn't be children if they weren't careless.

One thing that would be handy (this is pure wishful thinking) is a test that detects early stage malaria. You'd need the chemical trigger that starts the blood cells bursting, and some kind of AI to recognise parasite, compact enough to be put on a microcontroller. Big weakness here is that inhuman demand for constant discipline again.

The most affordable guaranteed successful measure might be to just remove the inhabitants and their livestock from the malaria-edges for a season. That should be long enough to break the life cycle. Roll people out and then back as the neighbours go. ...

But malaria can somehow enter a game reserve, so this might not even be enough.
-- skoomphemph, Apr 02 2014

//A more practical solution would be a live-virus vaccine like that used for influenza.//

Yes, except that malaria isn't a virus. People have been working on malaria vaccines for a very long time.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 02 2014

I think the only way non-parasite infested mosquitoes would help is by covering every square millimeter of my skin with them, then the parasite-ridden ones wouldn't get a look in. Not a great option.

What happened to that idea to breed a gazillion boy mosquitoes, irradiate them sterile, then release onto the local girl mozzies?
-- not_morrison_rm, Apr 02 2014

//breed a gazillion boy mosquitoes, irradiate them sterile, then release onto the local girl mozzies?// They still do that - at least I think they do it for mosquitoes, and/or tsetse
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 02 2014

they fly down a concentration gradient of CO2, right? Emit the right amount to attract them, when they get too close they're sucked into a giant vacuum cleaner, filter them out, desiccate them and burn them for the required CO2 to attract the next lot.
-- bs0u0155, Apr 02 2014

[skoomph], no disrespect, but if you want to see comfortable and secure self-sufficiency, come up to Maine. I'm not saying we don't benefit from the technology and products that come out of large population centers, because we do, but we'd be alright without it. There wouldn't be riots and pillaging, we'd all just have to come together and work a little harder (which we do for a cumulative few days/weeks every winter when the lights go out). Meanwhile, city dwellers would be royally and truly fucked without us. If you've ever eaten a McDonald's french fry, read a glossy magazine, or wiped your ass with brand- name toilet paper, you've used a Maine-made product without even knowing or thinking about where it came from. Those are just the examples I can think of off the top of my head. When it goes all Mad Max, where will Manhattanites grow their potatoes and harvest trees for paper products? Central Park?
-- Alterother, Apr 02 2014

The world got by before the steam engine, and the only parts that would survive if its descendant technologies were lost would be those rural areas not too dependent on these, yes.

I suppose whether it's better for 3% or 30% to live on the land becomes a matter of opinion, but for higher rural percentages at current population levels there's a correlation with high levels of poverty.

But then, again, beyond absolutes like starvation, what constitutes poverty is also just a matter of opinion. There are wild parts of the world whose inhabitants probably laugh more minutes per day than do the undrugged rich. They're the wealthy ones by some measures - and teaching them discontent to turn them into assets that can do the dying in some or other fight somebody wants the rest of the world to fight is probably not the great favour some sincere folk might imagine.

I suppose I'd better stick to less accurate but more easily measurable standards of wealth. By those standards, rural Africa doesn't do very well. And much of rural Africa now knows this. So your balance may have slewed over to the excessively urban in the US, but here it's the other way round. The situations are too different to disagree about at present, but I suppose the warnings of those who've gone too far down this road are something to keep in mind for future reference.

The trouble is getting by in a self-sufficient way - certainly North of here - involves living short lives, i.a.
-- skoomphemph, Apr 02 2014

Only moral scruples and the small risk of kuru stand between New Yorkers and their most abundant food source.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 02 2014

//        But then, again, beyond absolutes like starvation, what constitutes poverty is also just a matter of opinion. //

It does indeed. According to whatever federal bureau decides these things, I'm practically destitute, yet my wife and I live in great comfort. Why? Because we own all of our vehicles, live in an apartment above our place of business, have no outstanding debts, don't have any credit cards, and reside in a region with low taxes and cost-of-living. I don't even have a credit rating. We're doing just fine on about fifteen grand a year, including modest recreational spending. We're even putting away some savings. There are folks elsewhere who make ten times our annual income and yet they're drowning in debt.

Poverty is a matter of opinion, yes. Probably also a matter of perspective.
-- Alterother, Apr 02 2014

And of money.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 02 2014

Just invent the next bitcoin. BitBun is the obvious one.
-- not_morrison_rm, Apr 02 2014

Yes, definitely about money. ... Until the zombies arrive.

And maybe about value for money. Which is about value, really. Which is about values. Just little value-generating values, I mean. I mainly mean. Well the Capital V Values, too, I suppose, but not every day.

This is not also not a proper sentence, and yet somehow it's a lot worse than all the quasi-Russian sentence phrases up there that speak like we speak.
-- skoomphemph, Apr 02 2014

//"What if we eradicate species x ?"

Hmm, that would be a bit boring....viz the UK, where everything that wasn't cute or tasty has been eliminated. Serious lack of animal species in the UK compared to just about anywhere else.
-- not_morrison_rm, Apr 02 2014

Care to provide any evidence to back up your incorrect statement?
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 02 2014

I can look out my window to verify that statement.
-- Alterother, Apr 02 2014

It's rectangular, and set very high up on the wall. To see out of it I must balance on the back of my commode and leap across my cell, grab the iron bars that prevent my escape, and pull myself up to ground level. Still, I get some indirect sunshine reflected off the guard tower, and it's nice to watch the sharpshooters fidget nervously as they wait for me to make any sudden movements...
-- Alterother, Apr 02 2014

// Probably the cruelest thing our previous government did was to try to force people to live the life, living off the land. //

[skoomphemph] I curious what government you're referring to.

I'm somewhat interested in the conflict that I see between rural and urban society, and didn't realize that some country had tried to de-urbanize.
-- scad mientist, Apr 02 2014

Right off the top of my head, Cambodia comes to mind. "Live the simple life or we'll build a wall out of your skulls" was the national motto a few decades ago.

I'm not advocating de-urbanization, or even speaking out against cities in general. Some of my highest-tipping kennel clientele are city folk (I think my rates are so low they feel like they're stealing from me). I like my iPad and my Blu- Ray player. I simply resent the implication that we wouldn't be able to survive out here without the big metropolitan areas supporting us, when in fact quite the opposite is true. Our lifestyle would change, things would be winter- difficult all year round, but we'd get by just fine.
-- Alterother, Apr 02 2014

[scad mientist], the South African government. The old regime had a policy of "influx control" aimed at the selective prevention of urbanisation. In fact it had a de-urbanisation angle, too, because they tried to make all black urban migrants temporary. The hardship this caused urban residents is notorious, so no need to expand on that; the harsher hardship it caused people living in beautiful places like the Tugela river valley is less notorious.

[Alterother], I'm all for rural living in the right circumstances, and even a measure of self-sufficiency. My gripe (to the extent that I have one) is the idea that this is the goal to aim for in Africa. It also seems a waste putting limited resources into things like supplying rural electricity, when this can be done so much cheaper in a city. Just in our peculiar circumstances, if we could somehow get our cities to function, everything else would follow pretty much by itself.

It's the very self-sufficiency of the old way of country living that means it can be left to survive if it can.

I suppose I universalise the points argued to make them of interest to more than just my own little parish?
-- skoomphemph, Apr 03 2014

Wow, I'm ashamed I missed this great discussion, but to chime in late if I can: As for mosquitos, (bs0u0155)'s first comment is right on the mark. I think the best idea is to make the infected mosquitoes die of the infection and we are set. As I read more on bacteria, it may not be the mosquitoes we need but maybe the bacteria they carry. Pulling parts out of the Jenga-like circle of life seems like a dangerous plan, but if we are to do it, please do it with lasers and the bigger the better.

As for wealth, I just heard a great description of true wealth as "the point were all your needs and future needs are secure". This is a better definition than I have heard before as it shows how (Alterother) may be wealthier than others who have much more, because he could have created security that others only dream of. It also explains why so many lottery winners end up poor, as they lack the knowledge to turn monetary wealth into true security.

Oh and marked for tagline "(fill in the blank) or we'll build a wall out of your skulls".
-- MisterQED, Apr 03 2014

[skoomph], I'm certainly guilty of the same sin.
-- Alterother, Apr 03 2014

Coincidentally, I was at a synthetic biology meeting today which was attended by the mosquito man.

His company breeds male Aedes mosquitoes which carry a gene which is lethal in the embryos. They release large numbers of them in Dengue-ridden areas. These males mate with the females, and then all the offspring die.

It works extremely well, and has been used to clear some areas almost completely.

Malaria is harder, because there are several different Anopheles species which carry it (often in the same area), but it's apparently a tractable problem.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 03 2014

//As I read more on bacteria, it may not be the mosquitoes we need but maybe the bacteria they carry.//

if we were dealing with bacteria, malaria would likely be a mild nuisance by now. You'd get some symptoms, complain to a Dr, then chalk up another victory for antibiotics. Annoyingly though, they're Eukaryotas, tough ones. They even managed to defeat Gin and Tonic, which previously had a 100% record in improving everything ever.
-- bs0u0155, Apr 03 2014

Interesting, [Max] . From the sporadic reading I've done, it seems there were 3 main suspect species, only one of which had a strong preference for (possibly dependence on) human blood. There could well be more, but I think the number is finite and smallish / manageable, assuming there are no other problems.

If our government get serious about preventing the return of malaria they should offer to help / apply pressure forcing the acceptance of help, to Southern Mozambique - certainly when the right Anopheles killers become available, but preferably long before that.

And from there it would be just plain short-sighted not to roll this on ever Northward. ... Yebo. In my dreams, I fear...

... I had a friend once who spent a year of his youth living [8th's] dream. He was dropped off on Marion Island in the South Atlantic by the Antarctic research crowd's vessel, with little more than a .22 rifle and some hard liquor. Job? Well obviously to kill all the cats there.

I think they actually succeeded in driving the cats of Marion extinct, but there are plenty of islands waiting for solutions to their rat and cat problems. (I think the cats were possibly put on Marion to sort out the rats). This kind of biotech makes problems like that solvable.

I suppose this is really a new idea, but for rat islands (and maybe possums in New Zealand) the solution might be a two-pronged attack. Breed Superpossum, who's got lots of testosterone (for aggression) and produces terminator sperm. Let them reign. Flood possum country with ...

Hang on, it's just a furry version of the same idea, isn't it?
-- skoomphemph, Apr 03 2014

//From the sporadic reading I've done, it seems there were 3 main suspect species//

There are many species which transmit malaria, and my understanding (from today's presentation) is that the main culprits are several species of Anopheles, and that different regions have different combinations of these species. In any one region, there are often two or more species.

(For Dengue, transmission is only by one species - Aedes aegyptii.)
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 03 2014

Yes, the most detailed thing I read was specific to I think Dar es Salaam, and I've gone and generalised that. I must remind myself that I managed to come under the impression that larvae carry the parasite, so I suppose this is to be expected.

Nice to think that malaria might be on its last legs, though.
-- skoomphemph, Apr 03 2014

//Only moral scruples and the small risk of kuru stand between New Yorkers and their most abundant food source.//

That made me laugh.

Oh crap, better go get myself checked out…
-- ytk, Apr 03 2014

// moral scruples ... New Yorkers //

Presumably those are the immigrants who haven't fully absorbed the social ethos yet ....
-- 8th of 7, Aug 11 2015

random, halfbakery