Saturday, February 01, 2014

A Mite Less Animus

(National Geographic photo)
My dislike of mosquitoes originated from childhood...the itchy welts that wouldn't go away, the incessant buzzing and sleepless nights, and the hungry swarms that would attack in the aftermath of a tropical rain.

In junior high we all read Microbe Hunters, Paul de Kruif's 1926 history of the battle against disease in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Carrier of yellow fever and malaria, the mosquito was responsible for the death of millions of people. It's doubtful that there is a more feared and despised insect on the face of the planet.

In an unexpected twist scientists now hope to combat malaria by strengthening the health of mosquitoes. Malaria is actually transmitted via the Plasmodium parasite, and the Wolbachia bacterium enables mosquitoes' immune systems to fight off the parasite.
When they injected [Wolbachia] into embryos, the resulting mosquito moms passed the bacteria to their spawn, infecting and thus protecting an entire population.
It seems nigh incredible that the solution may be to help mankind's ancient enemy, not kill it. Even if mosquitoes are parasite- and disease-free I'll still swat them, though perhaps with a mite less animus. © 2014 Stephen Yuen

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