How Sex Could Wipe Out Malaria

But is it worth it to wipe out an entire species of another living creature just to serve the needs of a single species, ourselves? My guess is nearly everyone would answer that in the affirmative, but this is a bridge that doesn't lead to nowhere. We've never experimented on that scale before, and if this works it will surely lead to wider genetic engineering in the animal world.

Even Crisanti described this as a "quantum leap in terms of what has been done before."

Yet even though the stakes here are high, it's hard not to get excited about this potential breakthrough.

The only other progress in fighting malaria has involved hanging insecticide-treated nets over the beds of children and pregnant women, and that has reduced malaria by an estimated 50 percent. Drying out muddy ponds where mosquitoes lay their eggs also has helped. But that still leaves a lot of room for human suffering, and the nets only last for a few years.

The mosquito is not likely to easily give up its preference for human blood. As anyone who lives in a damp area knows, it can smell human breath 75 feet away and travel a couple of miles per day, beating its wings 300 to 600 times per second. It seems ideally equipped to torment humans.

And it is equally successful at developing immunity from the scores of insecticides that have been produced over the years.

That raises another question. If it has been so successful in the past, can it out-engineer the engineers and defeat human efforts to mess up its sex life? (Scientists call it a "sex ratio distortion system.")

Maybe. We won't know for at least two years when this project is expected to move from the lab to the real world.

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