Edit. For those who want to understand more about this gene driver approach (it is pretty complex and amazing genetics) this review is the best I have been able to find .
"Two promising biotech projects have been tested in Brazil over the past few years, however, the results still aren't being felt on a large scale. The first one, betting on an insect inoculation scheme with a bacteria (Wolbachia) that stops the transmition of tropical diseases, is still in test phase and its impact will take 3 to 5 years to be evaluated.
The strategy behind the second project aims for the extermination of the species in certain regions via the use of genetically-modified mosquitos. The technique is said to have been tested successfully, according to the company that makes the transgenic mosquito - but it caused an uproar in the city in Bahia that served as the test ground. Even so, a city in São Paulo adopted the program since April, with promising results."
With the CRISPR-Cas9 gene drive approach once released it spreads through the mosquito population on its own - it really is a one-and-done approach. It is also relatively easily adapted to every mosquito species we want to go after. This work truly is world changing.
You could argue that the Tasmanian tiger was driven to extinction for commercial reasons as it was hunted to protect sheep flocks .
We went from 30 million on North American continent around 16th century, to a few hundred around 19th century.
Is the proposed mechanism to release a virus with the appropriate RNA scaffolds in the wild?
This strikes me as extremely dangerous
What makes you think it is dangerous?
If you're just genetically engineering the mosquito to be unable to transmit the virus, I can't see the harm in it. But if you are releasing a virus to act as your vector for genetic modification of the mosquitos, then I would think that has the potential to veer wildly off plan
How do you think it might veer wildly off plan?
Using a virus as a vector?
The highly mutable nature of a virus. It's been engineered to perform a specific function, and within some limits of mutation it will still perform that function. There's a wide range of further mutations that will perform no noticeable function, and then there's a small space where it might do something that no-one expected. I mean, let's not get all doomsday about this - viruses are mutating and changing and leaping species all the time. We never know what nature will do for itself and how those effects will percolate through ecosystems.
My strongly held view is that we should be not be engineering with vectors. I do and have for a long time believed that species engineering (such as with this proposed system, although I was unaware of it until just now) is the way forward.
When I was completing my Biochem major I used to dream about ways to engineer our pestilent species out of existence, rabbits, cane toads and carp. Although in 2009 CRISPR wasn't even published and most of my thoughts revolved around chromosome engineering and X inactivation schemes to wipe the males of the species out. Not surprisingly, I wasn't the first to think of it and there was some great research out on those subjects
So it seems if we just select those pre-existing infertile mutants we can get the same effect as using all these gene modification and gene drive techniques. I don't see what the advantage is supposed to be.
It's an ugly situation. Dengue in particular was a real mess until relatively recently, like they didn't even gave consistent mechanisms to detect it or identify the different subtypes. Like you might test positive if cdc tested your blood but negative if a doctor in South America tests you. Really one of two things would be best for it, either climate change brings it in to Europe and North America or some tropical countries become serious enemies so the DOD takes it more seriously since they'll plan on fighting in places with it.
Mosquito eradication used to be done at the federal level, with military like organization. It kept things in control.
A few years ago it has been re-assigned to municipalities. Not only are local authorities less equipped to handle it, but mosquitoes do not conform to city boundaries. If one city is doing a good job but it's neighbor isn't you're screwed.
There's probably lots to be done through technical advances, but most of this could be avoided using common sense.
 demonstrates introducing malaria immunity using gene drive. To attack malaria, it is enough to immunize mosquito against malaria, instead of eradicating mosquito. Immunity is also not self-defeating and can reach 100% fixation.
Yes you can use gene drivers to create immunity in mosquitos against carrying certain diseases, but that only targets one disease at a time. Better to remove the vector rather than try to make the vector less dangerous.
This paper by George Church is a pretty good overview .
I suppose if the parasite rears its head again you could try rinse & repeat or just eradicate the host species and not bother to give them another chance via repopulation from a clean source.
EDIT: This eradicate everything, followed by a reintroduction of a "clean" population certainly sounds nicer than plain eradication. I worry about how an ecosystem can gracefully handle a rapid fire extinction/reduction and reintroduction.
Even if that isn't feasible, we would behoove ourselves to think about creating a Naughty Species Bank of populations of species we want to eradicate, before we actually attack that species. I'd be worried that we cannot re-introduce the original species if (when?) we encounter an "Oops... turns out that was a bad idea..." situation.
Personally I think the only good blood sucking mosquito is a dead one so I doubt I would want to see them back even if they didn’t kill people.
What is important is they have showed how you can achieve extinction - we have known for a while that it was possible in theory, but there has not been a practical way of achieving this. We now have a practical way doing this - basically there are no limit to the number of genes you can target with the CRISPR-Cas9 driver system. Target enough and the species goes extinct.
If this approach is implemented it will save millions of people - every day we delay means another 3000 people die.
Some biologists say we could wipe out all mosquitoes and it would make little difference to the ecology; there are enough substitute prey items. But I don't even care about that. Genocide them now!
I very much like where you're going with this...
> then we could put some on an island as a kind of zoo.
Then again, they have wings; and, sea levels both rise and fall...
We also have lots of mosquitoes and the population sure isn't dwindling. We've got the aedes aegypti and there have been a few cases of dengue in my area. I don't think bats are going to solve the problem.
"Individuals of some bat species can capture from 500 to 1,000 mosquitoes in a single hour and large colonies can consume tremendous quantities. For example, a Florida colony of 30,000 southeastern bats consumes 50 tons of insects annually, including over 15 tons of mosquitoes and from 77.4% to 84.6% of little brown bats living in the northern U.S. and Canada eat mosquitoes."
Bats don't get rid of mosquitoes completely, but the right species of bat can be great to have to help keep their numbers down.
To head off the ecological discussion about using this technology, mosquitos that carry human disease play no important ecological role and if every single one disappeared tomorrow the only consequence would be millions of people would stop dying. Over 700 million people a year get a mosquito borne disease and over a million die . To stop this I would gladly sacrifice every mosquito.
Yet in many cases, scientists acknowledge that the ecological scar left by a missing mosquito would heal quickly as the niche was filled by other organisms. Life would continue as before — or even better. When it comes to the major disease vectors, "it's difficult to see what the downside would be to removal, except for collateral damage", says insect ecologist Steven Juliano, of Illinois State University in Normal.
Not that we shouldn't do it, I'm sure they can live off knats just as easily.
"The ecological effect of eliminating harmful mosquitoes is that you have more people. That's the consequence," says Strickman.
0: overly-complex · genetic re-engineering of a wild species
1: ineffective · look at other attempts to control Nature through domination (usually, they backfire)
2: inefficient · I can barely imagine a technology we could manufacture that could do this simultaneoulsy in every affected area where humans and mosquitos live... even then, see again my point on ineffective
0. CRISPR-Cas9 is an amazing simple system that has worked in every species tested. It really is not an issue to generate gene drivers for every species we want to go after.
1. How do you know it is ineffective? Do you understand how a gene driver system works? Arguments against attempting to control nature are rather weak - modern life is a successful attempt to control nature.
2. This is the genius of gene drivers. You let them go and they do all the work for you. We only have to release the driver into the mosquito population and it will do everything from there on its own.
This technology really is a massive game changer - we just have to be brave enough to use it.
But how could we put it into practice? I only saw gene-level mechanics in that article. Please show me a machine that could do this at scale.
> modern life is a successful attempt to control nature
How so? I imagine 2,400 mothers in Brazil might have another story.
Figure 1C is what you need to look at. This is real mosquitoes, not genes.
I think the problem is you don’t understand what a gene driver system is and how it works (it is complex genetics so there is no shame in this). The wiki article  is not great, but the original article that raised this idea is complex, but worth reading . The problem was until now we didn’t have a good system to actually make these drivers, we do now.
Link? Again, please show me a machine that can operate at scale or even a simple demo with an inlet, a re-engineered mosquito, and an outlet. (preferably without insulting me)
EDIT: Regarding the last sentence, two recessive parents are not guaranteed to produce a modified phenotype offspring. My bio is getting rusty. :)
I am pretty sure if you knew what a gene driver system is and what it can do then you would understand the significance of this paper. I edited my original post to include a link to a review paper that explores this whole area. You might find reading this helpful.
It makes a lot more sense to me when looking at it on a population level, rather than genetic. Emphasizing gene-level enhancements seems to inspire a "one-and-done approach" view, when as in the paper you added, its authors note several open questions they want to answer later (like these two):
* How can large numbers of high-quality modified insects be reared economically? In this context, how can insect quality be assessed?
* How should potential risks relating to the long-term instability/evolution of self-sustaining genetic elements be investigated, assessed and mitigated?
It seems, they have eyes bigger than their stomachs.
I will keep my eyes open to new tools from a wide range of fields. Influencing mosquito populations' genetics seems worthwhile, long-term. To get behind it, I simply want to see some practical approaches, like some phenotypic sorting tools, and some studies showing good mosquito DNA diffs. As related to this article, how/when could this work at scale in all parts of Earth mentioned here?
If it can be shown that this approach doesn't lead to some horrible side effect, it holds great promise for reducing if not wiping out this invasive species to the Americas.
Well, I have yet to find a Brazilian who has lived in as many places (in Brazil) as I have, either number of neighborhoods (15+) or cities (5). Also, I lived in many slums, in many middle class apartments, in a few upper-class places and even some hostels.
South Africa tried to develop a pathogen that would target black people during the apartheid era. This is certainly scary, but this is nothing to do with gene drivers like this.
We have 700 million cases of mosquito caused misery a year (along with more than a million deaths) on one side, and a completely vague risk that something bad might happen on the other. It is like worrying if you are going to get cancer from the smoke while your house is burning down.
May I assume you have zero background in biology/biochemistry/chemistry?
You release not only a gene but a technology into the wild. This is something that can not be undone. You may easily underestimate the scale, rapidness and evolutionary pressure of a fast replicating species. Throw a few atomic bombs on Brazil. The effects are
b) geographically limited.
If something screws up with the CRISPR/Cas9 system, the effects are
a) not temporary
b) geographically unlimited.
Proceed with caution.
What those propounding the precautionary principle forget is the do nothing approach is not cost free. 700 million people are made ill every year by mosquitoes and more than a million killed. Unless the risk adjusted consequences are greater than this then doing nothing is far worse. No one has been able to suggest any possible bad consequences of wiping out all human disease carrying mosquitos so there is nothing to be precautionary about .
As for the technology it is already in the wild - it was originally isolated from bacteria. One final point is yes it can be undone - see George Church’s paper . George is on your side, but he does explain how any trial can be controlled.
This was not the question.
But I see that "unlimited" risk is no problem for you. The problem I have is that I am sharing this risk for your actions. How about to try to get this insured? I am curious about the price quote for an "unlimited" risk that an insurance company would quote.
Ecologically, in addition to intentional cultivation, GMOs have the propensity to spread uncontrollably, and thus their risks cannot be localized. The cross-breeding of wild-type plants with genetically modified ones prevents their disentangling, leading to irreversible system-wide effects with unknown downsides. The ecological implications of releasing modified organisms into the wild are not tested empirically before release.
The problem with this analysis is their assumption that GMOs have a propensity to spread uncontrollably. This is totally false. The problem with GMOs is they don’t spread very effectively unless under human selective pressure. The reason why is really simple - all organisms have a fixed metabolic budget which they can allocate to different functions (grow, reproduction, protection against predation, repair, etc). When you introduce new genes into an organism you have to take away some of this fixed budget to allocate to the new function. This means that when the GMO competes with other organisms in the wild they are at a disadvantage. If you make an argument based on a false assumption then you will get a faulty conclusion.
It is a real shame with this paper as the rest is quite good and an excellent argument for not doing things where ...the consequences can involve total irreversible ruin, such as the extinction of human beings or all life on the planet. GMOs just don’t happen to be one of these things (I am leaving out of GMOs things like creating new pathogens, but you don’t need genetic engineering to create these as the USA and Russia showed in the 1950 and 1960s).
The bottom line is GMOs are not that scary. In fact I know of no serious harm that has come from any other than to make people fearful for no reason and their absence to drive up the price of food.
Imagine if the powers-that-be decided to do global scale climate geo-engineering by dispersing chemicals into the atmosphere (to increase the temperature).
> We already know what needs to be done , now all we need to do is get on with.
The good old thinking that you know everything and can't be wrong almost guarantees that you will be wrong.
That's rather misleading. As noted in the Wikipedia article on "global cooling" , which I know you are aware of because you cited it in the original version of your comment:
This hypothesis had little support in the scientific
community, but gained temporary popular attention due
to a combination of a slight downward trend of
temperatures from the 1940s to the early 1970s and press
reports that did not accurately reflect the full scope of
the scientific climate literature, which showed a larger
and faster-growing body of literature projecting future
warming due to greenhouse gas emissions.
Their only mistake was not anticipating that we would actually start taking air pollution seriously enough to not only stop the smog rise but reverse it. Since the '70s smog levels have come way down.
Or just check this compilation -
The point is they thought they were also very right.
No serious scientist ever thought we were going into an ice age 40 years ago.
>The good old thinking that you know everything and can't be wrong almost guarantees that you will be wrong.
Ad hominem arguments are not very helpful, but where exactly did I argue that I can’t be wrong? If you have an actual argument that shows I am wrong please post it. It has to be better than a warmed up precautionary principle.
Rachel Carson never called for the banning of pesticides. She made this clear in every public pronouncement, repeated it in an hourlong television documentary about Silent Spring, and even testified to that effect before the U.S. Senate. Carson never denied that there were beneficial uses of pesticides, notably in combatting human diseases transmitted by insects, where she said they had not only been proven effective but were morally “necessary.”
It never has been banned for combatting human disease, so I don't see your point. (Except in a few places like the U.S. where several species were going extinct from extreme overuse.)
DDT is so effective because it is persistent, unlike pyrethrins which degrade rapidly and need to be frequently resprayed. As a result, it has significant environment side effects and finds its way into the food chain. My only point was that in this case, DDT might be the lesser of two evils.
I had an uncle who had a closely guarded stockpile of DDT he bought before it started being restricted.
Maybe with the recent case of a popular celebrity  there will be more attention paid. That actor has undergone extreme treatment to try to save him, including several operations to stem internal bleeding, a foot amputation, and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.
Edit: Parent has been edited.
The situation has always been dire. We're just more aware of it now.
In fact I'd argue that it has been much worse in some sectors (remember hyper inflation? That was just less than 30 years ago).
The problem now is the growing pains and the polarization of opinion we're creating. We risk becoming a nation of black-and-white issues like, erm, the US.
"...unemployment has never been greater... "
in 1992 the unemployment rate was 12%
in 2015 it will probably be around 7%
I will not fix the rest of your exaggerated mistakes, but there is a lot of them...
》 Until a few years ago, human infections with the virus were almost unheard of. Then, for reasons scientists can't explain but think may have to do with the complicated effects of climate change, it began to pop up in far-flung parts of the world.
Ugh, what? This offhand cmoment seems like nonsense meant to make the article more interesting and relevant. I have no doubt that, through some complicated and convoluted path, climate change can tip the scales jn favor of some virus or even an infectious variant, but this is too interesting and sensationalist a statement to leave unqualified.
"The incidence of mosquito-borne diseases, including malaria, dengue, and viral encephalitides, are among those diseases most sensitive to climate. Climate change would directly affect disease transmission by shifting the vector's geographic range and increasing reproductive and biting rates and by shortening the pathogen incubation period."
I've been to Brazil a number of times, and the thing I could never understand is why, in a tropical country knee-deep in hungry disease causing mosquitos, is there not a single screen on any of the windows there? Big mistake, they're not expensive. They are cheaper and safer than rubbing chemicals into your skin every day.
Here we have screens even in the desert where there are few mosquitos, they still keep out flies and moths, etc.
We just learned that during the summer, around 7pm, it was time to close doors and windows and turn the A/C on.
But if you did the council would forbid you from doing anything about it, because hey, mosquito borne disease is historic.
I'll add that they are ubiquitous in Australia in my experience and non existent in Europe... again in my experience
I lived in Melbourne and never had them in my place and most of my friends didn't. Now that I think about it, my friends in Alice had screen doors and possibly screened windows. Of course they had Aircon too cause...well...Alice
I do get your point though, those kinds of scandals have probably been happening for a long time so it is good to finally have some of them uncovered.
We release GM mosquitoes that sabotage development of mosquito newborn, and they transmit virus which sabotages ours?
"may want to hold off"
"may have to do with the complicated effects ..."
They need some definitive answers.
The incidence of microcephaly is 1.02 per 10,000 births in the UK 2002 for microcephaly (University of Ulster, 2003).
[ source : http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/m/microcephaly/prevalence.htm ]
Birth rate in Brazil is 14.5 per 1000 births.(https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/...)
Population of Brazil is 190,000,000.
They're claiming 2400 cases in this emergency.
Do the math. (as child threader indicates, it is high)
Finding Zika virus a small number of cases is not a clear answer.
2,400 cases / (190,000,000 people * 14.72 births / 1,000 people in 2014) = 8.6 cases per 10,000 births, which is more than 8 times the rate quoted for the UK.