"It’s time to kill all the mosquitoes. It’s time for mass mosquito-cide."

Focus on the vector, not the pathogen


Fri, Apr 22nd, 2016 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

With the alarming spread of the Zika virus, Slate's Daniel Engber has a modest proposal: instead of focusing on finding vaccines for mosquito-bourne diseases, our efforts should be placed in completely eradicating these deadly "flying hypodermic needles." His argument: it's been successfully done before.

The approach I’m thinking of has its origins in the 1930s, when a man named Edward F. Knipling had an idea. Faced with the problem of a deadly cattle pest, the screwworm fly, the U.S. Department of Agriculture researcher thought to turn the bugs against themselves. By breeding and releasing sterile males into the wild, he figured that he might interfere with screwworm breeding and shrink their numbers. “The general reaction ranged from skepticism to ridicule,” he later wrote. But in 1953, Knipling used an Army X-ray machine to sterilize some flies and released them on Florida’s Sanibel Island. The experiment worked. Then it worked again, on the island of Curaçao. Within a few months, Knipling had exterminated the island’s native screwworm population—a full-blown screwworm massacre. By 1959, the fly was gone from all Southeastern states. Not long after that, it had disappeared from the U.S. as a whole.



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