Impotent Mosquitos Could Help End Malaria, Insert Bob Dole Viagra Joke My God We're So Old
Someone who contracts malaria can typically expect a complete recovery with proper and timely medical intervention. However, even with that being the case, malaria still kills over 400,000 worldwide and infects over 200 million people a year. There are efforts from multiple organizations to bring these numbers down, and progress IS happening. In the year 2000, the WHO estimates that 985,000 people died, so in just under 20 years we've managed to knock deaths down 60%. Looking at the chart below, you can see it's a combination of both knocking down the incidence and the mortality. The former seems to be attributed to a massive campaign to provide insecticide-treated nets to areas where malaria occurs and the latter to making treatments more easily available.
Percherie - CHU de Rouen - Paludisme en Amérique CHU de Rouen - Paludisme en Afrique CHU de Rouen - Paludisme en Asie
While treatments are effective, getting them to patients in the poor countries where most malaria cases occur can be a challenge. Preventing the infection in the first place has an obvious advantage, but while vaccine projects are active, there are no effective ones yet. Physical barriers like nets and programs to bring mosquito populations down have obviously been successful, but now, the smarties at Target Malaria have a cool new approach that might wipe the nasty disease off the face of the Earth.
Let's get to that after a quick primer on malaria itself.
Malaria is a disease caused by single-celled little pendejos that hitch a ride in a mosquito and when THAT little pendejo bites you, they get in your blood stream and infect you. Now, this will be important later (so PLEASE PAY ATTENTION BITCHES!), but only the female mosquitos will carry the parasite. Maybe there's a motherhood joke to be made here somewhere but I don't want to come off as a sexist dick so I'll leave that for you all to make in the comments.
The single-celled little pendejos come in a variety of flavors but all are part of the plasmodium genus. Once in your bloodstream, they get to your liver, infect it and replicate like crazy there. They then send more pendejos BACK into the bloodstream where they fuck up your red blood cells. A picture is worth …
The general symptoms are flu-like, but the signature one that may give you a clue you have malaria is a cyclical pattern of sudden coldness, chills and then fever that repeats every two or three days. Some species of the plasmodium hit you with the two-day cycle and some with the three-day one. P. falciparum is a particularly nasty pendejo in the bunch that causes malaria. This guy causes most of the most serious cases with complications and nastier symptoms. By extension, it also causes most of the deaths. Another hallmark symptom is seen in severe cases where the patient has a pronounced yellow skin, which is why malaria got the name "yellow fever."
Bonus trivia! Sickle cell disease evolved as a way to fight malaria. There is a wealth of info out there on malaria so if you want to read more about it, here are a couple of good starting points.
Now back to smarties at Target Malaria. From their "Who We Are" web page:
Target Malaria is a not-for-profit research consortium that aims to develop and share technology for malaria control.
Target Malaria started as university-based research programme and has grown to include scientists, stakeholder engagement teams, risk assessment specialists and regulatory experts from Africa, North America and Europe.
Target Malaria receives core funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and from the Open Philanthropy Project Fund, an advised fund of Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
They organize themselves into various types of teams, but the one working on the sterile mosquito project is one of the "science" teams. Yeah, I know they are not really impotent since they don't have tiny mosquito penises, but "sterile" isn't as funny in a title meant to pique your interest, so yes, I'm guilty of clickbait.
Their end goal is to create genetically modified mosquitos so that when they get it on, the result is that 90% of their offspring are male. If they can make that the dominant breed in the wild, well man, that would really cut down the incidence of malaria since only 10% of the mosquitos could infect you, rather than 50%. Wait, why is that? Seriously? I TOLD YOU TO PAY ATTENTION IN THE THIRD PARAGRAPH.
Anyway, Target Malaria isn't quite there yet, but they ARE ready for phase I of their project. Sometime this year, they will release 10,000 sterile, male mosquitos in Bana, a small town in Burkina Faso, a country with the third highest malaria mortality rate. Now a bunch of male mosquitos that can't produce little babies may be a great selling point for mosquitos that want a relationship but don't really want to have kids, but how will that help fight malaria? Well, it won't directly. This is a monitoring exercise only. Like a dry run for when the genetically modified critters are ready. The researchers will follow the mosquitos for 10 days after release and then monthly for up to a year. If things go well, and they convince the local authorities that they did, then that clears the path for step two, releasing the ones that should bring female population way down. This tech could potentially be applied to other mosquito borne diseases like Dengue fever and Zika, so let's hope it all goes well!
And no zombies.
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I am a biochemist MexiCAN. I also write screenplays, ever hoping to get one made.
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