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Newsweek, Boston Globe Examine Ways To Combat Mosquito-Borne Illness

Newsweek Examines Efforts To Stop Disease Spread By Genetically Modifing Mosquitoes

Newsweek examines the genetic modification of mosquitoes in an effort to stem the spread of dengue fever and malaria. Dengue fever, which is transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, “is spreading fast,” according to the magazine, with more than 100 million people afflicted yearly. “There is no vaccine, no cure and no solution,” it reports.

According to Newsweek, researchers “have devised a genetic modification that sterilizes the male Aedes, transforming the critter into his own worst enemy. He can still mate—but he can’t breed.” Scientists are also looking into ways of “tweaking the genome of the Anopheles gambiae mosquito, the species that carries the malaria parasite, which kills at least a million people each year.”

The idea of genetically modified mosquitoes isn’t new, “[b]ut it’s only recently gained the support of mainstream health officials,” and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has invested $38 million into the research, Newsweek writes. Nonetheless, some environmental groups are raising issues, believing that “any tinkering with the world’s delicately balanced ecosystems is unacceptable,” according to the magazine (Underhill, Newsweek, 6/27).

Boston Globe Columnist Looks At DDT Home Spraying Debate In Uganda

Boston Globe columnist Derrick Jackson looks at household DDT spraying in Uganda to battle malaria, where the country’s vice president, Gilbert Bukenya, recently said of the pesticide’s critics, “You can start with [spraying] my house. Those shouting against it are shouting ignorance. They are simply not informed.’’  Jackson writes that “the issue arouses great passion in sub-Saharan Africa, where access to the best drugs is woeful, and where simple home protections, such as window screens, are lacking.” Jackson interviews regional malaria control director, Abwang Bernard, who said, “I understand the environmental arguments, but sometimes they cry so much fear, their arguments become inhuman to the people. It’s almost like they want the people to perish for the animals. No chemical has no side effects. But let us first reduce infant mortality. That is the environment I care about right now.’’ Bernard also discusses the challenges of using insecticide treated nets in Uganda (Jackson, Boston Globe, 6/27).

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