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The creation of weaponized male mosquitoes designed to kill another mosquito responsible for spreading diseases has been approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency.These weaponized mosquitoes are called ZAP Males that carry the bacteria, Wolbachia pipientis.These bacteria-bearing male mosquitoes are engineered to kill the Asian tiger mosquito, a pest responsible for spreading dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever, and Zika.These engineered mosquitoes do not bite humans and when they mate, the fertilized eggs in females never hatch.
"It's a non-chemical way of dealing with mosquitoes, so from that perspective, you'd think it would have a lot of appeal.I'm glad to see it pushed forward, as I think it could be potentially really important," said Dr.David O'Brochta, an entomologist at the University of Maryland.
The company, MosquitoMate, ensures that other insects and species of mosquitoes are not harmed by the harvesting of Aedes albopictus.But that particular mosquito species will decrease in population as more of them are released into the wild to fight the Asian tiger mosquitoes.
Aedes albopictus Mosquitoes
Aedes albopictus or the Asian tiger mosquitoes are natives of tropical and subtropical areas of Southeast Asia.They are significant pests in several communities because of their close association with humans.They usually feed in the daytime, during dusk and dawn.These mosquitoes are responsible for carrying the pathogen that leads to deadly diseases.
- Yellow fever virus: It causes the illness of the same name characterized by fever, chills, appetite loss, back muscle pain, and headaches.The toxic phase of the disease can lead to liver damage, bleeding in the eyes, mouth, and gastrointestinal tract, kidney failure, and delirium.
- Dengue fever virus: It causes the disease of the same name, manifesting symptoms like high fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, and skin rashes.The disease can lead to a life-threatening hemorrhagic fever that results in bleeding, leakage of the blood plasma, and low levels of blood platelets.
- Chikungunya virus: It causes the infection of the same name with symptoms like fever and joint pain.Other symptoms associated with the disease include rash, headache, fatigues, digestive problems, and conjunctivitis.In rare cases, the disease may progress with neurological disorders, such as palsies, flaccid paralysis, and neuropathy.
- Zika virus: It causes the disease of the same name and often causes mild or no symptoms like dengue fever.Symptoms of Zika fever include rash, red eyes, joint pains, and headaches.The virus can be transmitted in several ways, such as mosquito bites from Aedes aegypti, from a blood transfusion, vertical transmission from mother to child, and through sexual contact.Transmission of Zika fever through sexual contact has been reported in six countries -- Argentina, Chile, France, Italy, New Zealand, and the United States -- during the 2015 outbreak.
Bacteria in Engineered Mosquitoes
The bacteria Wolbachia pipientis infects a wide variety of invertebrates such as arthropods and nematodes.It is one of the most common natural pathogens in the world that alters the function of the reproductive system of their hosts.Their infectious capability in reproduction to prevent fertilization has been under research for their potential use to control pathogens and pests.These are the four phenotypes or observed traits of the bacteria in pathology:
- Kills male hosts by infecting the testes.
- Feminization of males by altering the reproduction system.Males may grow as either fully fertile females or infertile pseudo-females.
- Parthenogenesis.Infected females may reproduce asexually or do not need a male partner to reproduce.
- Cytoplasmic incompatibility.The effect of infected males to unsuccessfully reproduce healthy females.This signifies the dominant trait of specific Wolbachia strain.
We can help our community to reduce the prevalence of the mosquito population and effectively prevent the spread or occurrence of diseases.Homeowners can do the following steps to control mosquito breeding.
1.Dispose and destroy containers that hold water, such as buckets, old tires, tin cans, and unused plastic swimming pools.Never allow water to accumulate in any containers for more than two days.
2.Clean debris and remove accumulated water from rain gutters and small structures around your house like roofs.Check and repair any leaks inside and outside your home to prevent water puddles.
3.Birdbaths and wading pools must be replaced regularly, at least once a week.
4.If you have animal troughs, remove standing water around it and flush livestock water troughs at least twice a week.
5.Carefully irrigate lawns and gardens to avoid standing water.
- There are an estimated 96 million dengue cases around the world, according to the World Health Organization.
- The Zika virus outbreak started in Brazil and it spread across the Americas and in the US.
- The female Asian tiger mosquito lays eggs about four or five days after feeding on blood.
- The Asian tiger mosquito is characterized by its black and white striped legs and small black and white striped body.