Hitting Malaria where it hurts: how to eradicate the Malaria carrying mosquito.

Picture of a mosquito
Anopheles gambiae, the mosquito responsible for carrying the Malaria causing Plasmodium falciparum. Image from Scientists Against Malaria.

Why should you care?

When talking about the leading causes of mortality (discounting war and starvation) a few big causes pop into most people’s minds: heart disease, cancer, and HIV-AIDS. In the westernized world, one that doesn’t come to mind is malaria, largely due to our advanced medical care and simply not having a large population of the malaria carrying mosquitoes in the genus Anopheles. However, malaria still infects roughly 225 million people per year and causes roughly 1 million deaths, the majority of which are in Africa (Murray et. al, 2012). A major field of medical research is devising methods of intercepting insect-borne diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, and the insidious Zika virus before human infection. That is, somehow preventing the mosquitoes from spreading the disease or even being infected in the first place, rather than treating the symptoms of the diseases in humans. One such experimental method is to cause significant mosquito mortality by spreading the bacterium Wolbachia, a parasite that is harmless to humans but lethal to mosquitoes after a blood meal. What would this mean for the rest of the environment and organisms? In an ideal scenario the Wolbachia parasite would target and swiftly execute only Anopheles mosquitoes, which are the ones carrying the malaria causing Plasmodium, while leaving all other types of mosquitoes that help sustain an ecosystem unharmed. There is still a lot of research to be done, but we are finding out some things about this potential biocontrol already. Continue reading “Hitting Malaria where it hurts: how to eradicate the Malaria carrying mosquito.”