Malaria-Resistant Mosquito: Frugal Research or Future Pox?

By Andrea Karim on 19 March 2007 (Updated 10 June 2007) 10 comments

File this one under "Wow, that's a great idea... or is it?"

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University have developed a mosquito containing a gene that makes it resistant to the malaria virus. The idea is not so much concern for mosquitos' health, but hope that a malaria-free mosquito population might fare better than malaria-prone mosquitos, thus halting the spread of this dangerous and deadly disease.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 700,000 to 2.7 million people die of malaria each year, 75 percent of them African children.

I'm am all about disease prevention (who isn't?), and I don't generally freak out about genetic research, from stem cells to genetically modified food. That said, releasing genetically-modified animals into the world in hopes of overtaking a current (and more or less naturally occuring) species worries me slightly.

Perhaps I'm being unnecessarily cautious. So far, the insects are not being released, and testing is still underway. But although this is unprecedented, it seems like humanity's general attempt to eliminate certain animal populations have been disastrous. For instance, in the 1950s, Mao Zedong encouraged a the widespread killing of swallows, with the mistaken belief that the birds were a nuisance. Millions of birds were killed by locals, and the resulting locust infestations brought devastating famine to the Chinese countryside.

Current attempts at eliminating malaria include a variety of vaccines that are being developed by large pharmaceutical companies in conjunction with government funding and NGO help. Hundreds of millions of dollars are poured into this every year.

You can read a bit about the malaria vaccine initiative at the Gates Foundation web site.

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Guest's picture
Sparky

Nobody's talking about eliminating the mosquito, just the malaria organism.

Mao and the sparrows notwithstanding, we did manage to eliminate the polio and smallpox viruses without causing any ecological havoc. And good riddance, say I.

Andrea Karim's picture

Polio and smallpos were eliminated via vaccination, not via a new breed of organism (unless you count a weakened virus to be a new breed of organism - I could see that).

I never said that we would be eliminating the mosquito, and I'm pretty sure that the post reflects that. Scientists hope that the malaria-resistant one will overtake the malaria-prone mosquitos. This is not eliminating so much as replacing.

Guest's picture
Guest

I have come to appreciate Wise Bread for its frugal financial focus. I would hope you don't lose that focus by adding the work "frugal" to something that is so far afield from your usual subject matter, the reason why I read it.

Andrea Karim's picture

How to save time, how to save money, deals to look for, how to protect yourself as a consumer... as writers, we are allowed to write about almost anything, although we try to have a financial focus.

In this case, I felt that this story had a financial focus, albeit a broad one that looks at global health.

Some other examples of articles that don't touch directly on finance, but that we think our readers might appreciate?

http://www.wisebread.com/twinkie-sushi-chopsticks-optional

http://www.wisebread.com/jolene-sugarbaker-trailer-park-cooking-queen

http://www.wisebread.com/telemarketers-prank-call-me-800-266-9420

http://www.wisebread.com/man-drives-suv-through-mall

I'm glad you read for our frugal focus, and I hope you keep it up. But that certainly isn't going to prevent us from writing about other topics.

Guest's picture
Yan

You seem to be spreading thin. How does that relate to the "Living large on a small budget" moto?

Will Chen's picture

Thank you for your comment Yan.  I think you are right to point out that not every article here is focused on "living large on a small budget."

I think many of our readers would prefer it if we stick to that focus.  On the other hand, we also don't want to stifle the creativity of our bloggers.  

That is one of the biggest challenges we are trying to address with the redesign of our website (which is going on behind the scenes as we speak).

The solution we came up with is to have stronger focus on our various categories (personal finance, frugal living, making money, off topic, etc), so when you only feel like reading one type of article, you can just go to those categories and ignore off-topic posts.  We will make a space for off-topic posts as well, so readers who enjoy those posts can also be satisfied.

I hope you will continue to read Wise Bread and share your insights with us during this transitioning period.  

Guest's picture
Yan

You have done a great job so far, aside of a few misses. WiseBread is in the "best of" category of my RSS reader and I want it to stay there (or I wouldn't leave comments like this). Keep up the good (focused) material coming. Will look forward to new design and hope it touches your RSS as well as this is my primary way of reading your blog.

Paul Michael's picture

I think something that separates Wisebread from a site like, for instance, The Bargainist, is that you don't just get cheap deals here. You get advice on 'living large' and that topic can be quite expansive. I think it's important to have a range of reading material on a good blog. I intend to post the 2nd in my Dirty Secrets series soon. It's all about the food processing industry. Will it help you save money? Not really. But will it help you make a more informed decision about what to spend your small budget on? Absolutely. Wisebread bloggers, myself included, are here to keep you all informed and entertained daily, and I think so far we're doing a rather good job. And I thought the article was a great read Andrea. 

Will Chen's picture

"Will look forward to new design and hope it touches your RSS as well as this is my primary way of reading your blog."

We are also looking into the possibility of segregating our RSS feeds so our readers can have more choices.  Thanks for your continuing encouragement and advice.  We really appreciate it!

"Wisebread bloggers, myself included, are here to keep you all informed and entertained daily."

I agree the writers are doing a great job!  It takes a bit of time for a blog to find it's voice.  Luckily we have terrific writers and readers to help make that process as smooth as possible.  =)

I enjoy sites like the Probargainhunter and the Bargainist.  I know I can go to them and get very specific and useful information.  But I also enjoy sites that have a wider focus, like BoingBoing and Consumerist, which sometimes break out of their usual topic areas to cover things that are just, well, darn interesting.

We hope our continuing efforts to redesign and tweak the blog will help satisfy both the topic-focused readers and the general interest readers.

Guest's picture

It is good to talk about subjects in many areas. Even though most topics here are financially related, other non related topics are influenced by financial decisions. It is good that you have some topics outside your normal area.