When I envision the most dangerous animal in the world I picture, like most people, a shark strapped to a starved bear coated in Valyrian steel. Some of the more clever humans among us may tell us that WE are in fact the biggest threat to ourselves. Well, as news to all you General Zaroffs out there, there’s a much more serious and clandestine danger than humans out there, and it is lurking the skies with a stark mad craving for blood.
Vampires! Scientifically known as mosquitoes. Throughout history, mosquitoes have killed more humans than all wars and plagues combined. Every year, there are 200-300 million cases of malaria and 50-100 million cases of dengue fever worldwide, diseases that are easy to catch and highly fatal.
With malaria, you can head to the hospital and be treated with antibiotics relatively quickly (though malaria mutates rapidly and is becoming immune to just about every drug proven to be effective at a rapid rate). Dengue on the other hand, known as breakbone fever (because it feels like every bone in your body is shattering) is a completely different story. Unlike malaria, there is not a single drug proven to directly seek out and destroy the dengue virus. If you get it, you are stuck riding out the ordeal in a hospital. If you get it again, rather than becoming immune, you will likely die. If you get it a third time, unless you are Bruce Willis from Unbreakable, you have absolutely no chance. The worst part? Despite huge efforts to rid areas of the mosquito that carries the dengue virus, as seen by this frequently updated, interactive map from the CDC, it is spreading at a rapid rate.
In this eye-opening TED talk, Biotech entrepreneur Hadyn Perry asks the question: why, with all our advances in technology, have we not succeeded in destroying the single greatest killer of humanity? Why are we treating the symptoms and not aiming for that tiny hole leading to the main power source that is always built in to every death star? Why can’t we just kill all the mosquitos?
Most people will point out that ridding the world of the mosquito legion scourge would leave a gap in the global food chain, causing irreparable damage to eco-systems around the world. Despite the rationality of this argument ecologists are very certain that the removal of mosquitoes, a species that has existed on the planet for over 100 million years, would have little to no effect on the overall ecology of the planet. Something would quickly fill the gap left by mosquitoes; everyone would be less itchy, our skin would be deet-free, and the hand of God would come down to give us a well deserved high-five.
So, how do we get rid of mosquitoes forever? We’ve been hosing down towns and cities with insecticide and pouring larvicide into the planet’s waters for decades and the result has been even more death and disease due to mosquitoes. As usual, biotechnogoly is the answer.
Hadyn Parry is on the forefront of genetic modification research and he wants the issue of genetic modification, or GM, to stop being so political and start focusing on actual research and results. He has at the ready, a cheap, efficient, proven to work solution for ridding the world of mosquitoes through the use of mosquitoes engineered in the lab. Through his method of releasing genetically sterile males into the wild, females that mate with these males (which look like the perfect mixture of Edward and Jacob to female mosquitoes) produce sterile offspring. His team has put this method into practice with remarkable results. He has reduced mosquito populations in villages throughout the world by over 85% within 4 months, with the mosquito death toll continuing to rise with time.
Imagine a world where you can lay out on a summer’s eve without smelling like a chemical cocktail and bitch slapping yourself repeatedly. According to Hadyn Parry, this vision of the future is a reality ready and willing to take place.
Take a look at the TED talk below for more information and specifics regarding Parry’s method and ideology.