February 13, 2018
What Are Lab-Made Wolbachia Mosquitoes?
There’s No Failsafe With Wolbachia Bugs
“ … [Lounibos] says mosquitoes, which mostly feed on plant nectar, are important pollinators. They are also a food source for birds and bats while their young — as larvae — are consumed by fish and frogs. This could have an effect further up and down the food chain … He warns that mosquitoes could be replaced by an insect ‘equally, or more, undesirable from a public health viewpoint.’ Its replacement could even conceivably spread diseases further and faster than mosquitoes today.”
“[T]he World Mosquito Program's Wolbachia method is unique because it is self-sustaining and does not need to be continually reapplied, making it an affordable, self-sustaining, long-term solution.
Our method reduces the ability of mosquitoes to transmit dengue, Zika and chikungunya on to people, without suppressing mosquito populations and potentially affecting ecosystems. We are currently adapting our approach for use in large, urban environments and targeting a cost of US$1 per person.”
GE Mosquitoes Also on the Horizon
“The switch from FDA to EPA oversight means an end to Oxitec’s endless waiting. That’s because the EPA is required by federal law to review new pesticides ‘as expeditiously as possible,’ which the statute defines as within 12 months after the submission of an application … [Derric Nimmo, an Oxitec scientist who leads the company’s work in the US] hopes to get permission to go ahead with releases in the next six months, just in time for … [the 2018] mosquito season.”
How Big of a Problem Are Mosquito-Borne Diseases in the US?
- Dengue: “Dengue rarely occurs in the continental United States.”17
- Chikungunya: In 2016 and 2017, “No locally-transmitted cases have been reported from U.S. states.”18
- Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV): EEEV “is a rare illness in humans, and only a few cases are reported in the United States each year.”19
- Zika virus: Only four cases of (presumably) locally acquired cases were reported in 2017.20
"It was improved sanitation, environmental management and access to health care that beat malaria in the U.S. … Rising standards of living were also key — bringing things like screened windows to rural areas in the southern states of the U.S. where the malaria problem was the worst."