The Future of Mosquito Control
Mosquitoes and their reputation as a pesky enemy pack a bigger punch than just itchy annoyance. This minute insect is the deadliest creature on the planet. There are three thousand mosquito species, but only two hundred find sucking blood a necessity. Only the adult females bite when they are ready to lay larvae. Some of the most prominent diseases carried by mosquitoes are malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, West Nile virus and other forms of encephalitis. UNICEF estimates that malaria kills a child somewhere in the world every minute and is one of the biggest causes of child mortality. As a disease-transmitting culprit for both man and animal, mosquito control tops the list of imperatives for the future.
Latest Attack Strategies
While eradicating the mosquito might seem like the best thing for the health of the world’s population, it would be virtually impossible to accomplish. Therefore, source reduction and biological elements direct the future of mosquito control. One technique that will continue to provide relief is biological control, or the practice of introducing natural predatory species to eat larval-stage mosquitoes before they hatch. Rivers and lakes filled with mosquito-eating fish, carps and minnows curb the mosquito population but don’t conquer it.
More aggressively, scientists continue to work on a malaria vaccine. With infected mosquitoes causing more than a half million deaths a year, a successful vaccine could distinctly downgrade the threat to humans. But the disease is complex. Current vaccines fight bacterial infections, but triggering the body’s immune system to fight parasites is difficult. Hence, scientists acknowledge it could be decades before the genomes of the mosquito and the malaria parasite can be mapped and an experimental vaccine tested on humans.
Insecticides in the form of DDT and other chemicals have been successful at decreasing the public health risk. But tears of insecticide use have also introduced another complication: insecticide resistant mosquitoes. The BBC reports researchers have linked a family of genes that alerts them to the presence of insecticide resistance. This allows mosquito infested areas to be tested. The tests are expensive, though, necessitating a focus on developing a rapid test. This will allow targeted insecticides to be formulated that skirt the resistance issue and enables cost effective mosquito control management.
Most interesting, work continues to refine and test a sterile insect technique. This is a population control method that genetically alters the male mosquito. Simply speaking, altered males are released into the population and trick the fertile female mosquitoes into breeding. This introduces an engineered genetic sterilization into the offspring and prevents any mosquitoes hatched from becoming adults. Other techniques involve genetically modifying the mosquito to require certain chemicals that aren’t present in the ecosystem so that offspring can’t develop without it. Researchers predict both procedures have the capability to drastically reduce the mosquito population and stop the spread of associated diseases.
Tried and True
New strategies aside, the technology of mosquito control remains a matter of manually gathering mosquito evidence, chemical management and public education. Until other procedures can make inroads to eliminate the mosquito threat, these techniques will continue to form the backbone of an integrated mosquito control program. The Centers for Disease Control recommends a hearty, integrated management of surveillance, reduction, outreach and education, and use of every method at our disposal to control mosquito activity.
Mosquito Control Responsibilities
Even with new developments, the old tips to help keep mosquitoes away will never change:
- Mosquitoes breed in water. Empty standing water anywhere around your home.
- Stagnant water sources attract mosquitoes. Maintain pools, yard ponds and bird baths.
- Be responsible for your personal health and your animals. Use repellants to control bites. Administer approved veterinary medication to protect your animals. Stay indoors during evening and early morning hours when mosquitoes are the most active or cover exposed skin.
- Finally, support your city’s mosquito control efforts by staying informed about your community’s mosquito issues.