(p. A1) The death toll from diseases carried by mosquitoes is so huge that scientists are working on a radical idea. Why not eradicate them?
Mosquitoes kill more humans than any other animal and were linked to roughly 500,000 deaths in 2015, mostly from malaria. For more than a century, humans have used bed nets, screens and insecticides as weapons, but mosquitoes keep coming back. They are now carrying viruses like Zika and dengue to new parts of the world.
Powerful new gene-editing technologies could allow scientists to program mosquito populations to gradually shrink and die off. Some efforts have gained enough momentum that the possibility of mosquito-species eradication seems tantalizingly real.
“I think it is our moral duty to eliminate this mosquito,” entomologist Zach Adelman says about Aedes aegypti, a species carried afar over centuries by ships from sub-Saharan Africa.
. . .
(p. A8) Purposely engineering a species into extinction–or just diminishing it–is fraught with quandaries. Scientists must weigh the potential impact of removing a species on the environment and food chain. It will take years of more research, testing and regulatory scrutiny before most genetically altered mosquitoes can be released into the wild. And the strategy might not work.
Wiping a species off the face of the earth is “an unfortunate thing to have to do,” says Gregory Kaebnick, a research scholar at the Hastings Center, a bioethics research institute in Garrison, N.Y.
He says humans shouldn’t force a species into extinction to meet their own preferences. “We ought to try not to do it,” says Mr. Kaebnick. One justification, he says, would be to avert a serious public-health threat.
For the full story, see:
BETSY MCKAY. “A World with No Mosquitoes.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Sept. 3, 2016): A1 & A8.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 2, 2016, and has the title “Mosquitoes Are Deadly, So Why Not Kill Them All?”)