Monday, March 19, 2012

Fighting Malaria with Mosquitoes

Rick Santorum campaigned in Puerto Rico with the focus group tested brilliant strategy of saying they better speak English if they want to be a state. This post is not an effort to find an even less popular policy proposal. I am totally serious. I think that Malarial countries should be inundated with mosquitoes.

The point is that only one genus of mosquito -- the anopheles mosquito -- carries malaria. One approach to fighting malaria is to try to drive it extinct. Considerable progress was made with DDT in the past (ending either with DDT resistance either among anopheles mosquitoes or well intentioned people depending on who you ask). This is the wrong approach. The way to drive a genus extinct is to introduce a competing genus -- Darwin noted that species are threatened by similar species not by say predators. (Yes as you guess, I thought they were a species then Wikipediad and partially corrected but I can't rewrite Darwin who didn't write the Origin of Genuses or whatever the correct plural may be).

The worst threat to a mosquito species is another mosquito species.

Now just imagine how enthusiastic people in a malarial region will be about planes dropping billions of mosquito eggs into every pond.

OK also non-reproductive sex (back to Santorum). One approach to eliminating populations of insects is to catch a lot of males, sterilize them and release them. The combination of birth control and innate monogamy leads to females laying sterile eggs. If the insect hotties fooled around, this wouldn't work, but they are only interested in reproduction and have sex only once (per batch of eggs ? or ever ? I don't know).

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