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[P]
The end of malaria in sight?

By twistedfirestarter in Science
Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 01:28:49 PM EST
Tags: News (all tags)
News

A biologist at Imperial College in London, Austin Burt, has suggested (technical overview) a dramatic scheme for eradicating the world's most deadly disease, malaria. He proposes the use of cutting-edge genetic technology to make entire species of malaria-carrying mosquitoes of extinct. This was widely reported in popular media around the time of publication (20 March).

If his plan were to be realised, it could be the greatest application of genetic science so far. It may also be akin to opening a Pandora's box, giving humans the god-like power to annihilate entire species at will. Either way, it is an important issue worthy of discussion, which is a life and death issue for the millions who suffer from malaria each year.


Malaria background

At a time when many parts of the world are disproportionately fearful of emergent diseases and biological or chemical attack, malaria is a mundane but devastating killer that puts other causes of death in perspective. The lack of interest in malaria may partly be because it is endemic in Africa and India, some of the poorest places in the world. Every year, 1.5 - 2.7 million people (mostly children) die from malaria. It affects tropical countries across the globe, and has plagued humanity for all recorded history. It is also believed to have major economic consequences for African nations in particular.

Malaria mosquitos - Anopheles

An obvious, yet important, point is that not all mosquitos are malaria mosquitos. The malaria mosquitos are classified as members of the genus Anopheles. Anopheles is distributed throughout the world. It is the subject of much interest in the genetic community. The genes for one African species, A. gambiae, has recently been sequenced.

Mosquitos are any members of the family Culicidae. To wipe out Anopheles would still leave other Culicidae species to fill any empty ecological niches. This is important, as fish, frogs, turtles, birds and bats eat mosquitoes. Mosquitos are also pollinators (many live off nectar rather than blood). There may also be unknown roles played by mosquitos in the ecology.

Homing Endonuclease Genes

HEGs are special genetic sequences found in the DNA of many species. They are one of a number of [PDF] selfish genetic elements which exploit various genetic processes to replicate themselves. HEGs exploit cells' damage repair system to perpetuate themselves in the DNA.

A HEG, like many genes, codes for the production of an enzyme.  In this case the enzyme is a homing endonuclease. Homing endonucleases catalyse the movement of their own DNA sequence, which is the HEG, inside a chromosome.

A homing endonuclease will search for a particular sequence of DNA. What DNA sequence it searches for is specified by the HEG. Once the homing endonuclease enzyme has found this sequence, it will slice through the DNA at that point, severing the chromosome in two.

This leaves a "hole" in the genetic code that must be filled. In a diploid cell with paired chromosomes, this problem can be fixed. The nucleus will attempt to repair the chromosome by copying the corresponding gene at the same point on the other chromosome in the pair - clearly a sensible solution to the problem. But this is playing straight into the HEG's hand - the HEG is this gene and is used as the template to repair the break.

Using HEGs to kill

HEGs, like most selfish genetic elements, are not harmful to the host. Their survival relies upon the survival and reproductive success of their host. This is because, unlike viruses, HEGs can only be transferred by being passed down from one generation to the next - they are not otherwise contagious. They never leave the DNA or produce carriers such as viruses.  If the host dies without reproducing, the HEG will die with it.

However, this does not mean that HEGs cannot be modified to be harmful to their hosts by genetic engineering. The plan is to make the HEG target a gene crucial for development in mosquitos, so that the enzyme will destroy this gene when the HEG is activated. The HEG will only activate within newly divided eggs or sperm cells, so that both kinds of cells have 2 copies of the HEG and no copy of the normal gene. Because the HEG copies itself in the sperm and egg cells, even though a carrier may only have 1 copy of the HEG, their children must have at least 1 copy. This is in apparent defiance of Mendelian genetics, and is why HEGs are different from recessive traits.

When the HEG carriers reproduce with a non-HEG carrier, their children will develop normally, but carry the HEG on one of the chromosomes. They will live because they can use the gene on the other chromosome.  But if a HEG carrier reproduces with another HEG carrier, the children will die, as they will not have a copy of the crucial gene, just two copies of the HEG. This delayed effect will mean that the HEG will be able to spread throughout the mosquito population without the carriers being negatively affected. This will be the case until carriers become predominant and start mating with each other. At such time, however, if enough carriers are in the population, a population crash could result as non-carrier reproduction becomes rarer and rarer.

Burt's article predicts that after 12 generations, 80 per cent of a population's offspring may be killed. This is if 1 per cent of the mosquito population are given the HEG and it copies itself to the sperm and egg cells in 95 per cent of cases. If the HEG can replicate in 99.9 per cent of cases or if more than one HEG is used, after 12 generations 99.8 per cent of a population's offspring will be killed. A mosquito generation may be as short as 3 weeks in tropical areas, which means that it may take only 36 weeks for near-extinction.

Resistance

There would be a simple way for mosquitos to evolve resistance. Because the HEG will only home in on a specific DNA sequence, the mosquitos could simply evolve a gene that has a different, non-matching, sequence but performs essentially the same task.  This could be avoided by using a number of HEGs, each targeting a different part of the same gene or targeting a number of different, but equally crucial, genes.

Resistance would only be an issue if the mosquitos were given enough time to develop it. A large enough release of HEG carriers would lead to such a swift population fall, this would hardly be an issue. It is worth pointing out that using HEG to control a population is fundamentally different from using a pesticide - it would not require repeated exposures over many years, just a single release of a batch of carriers. Given a large enough release, the chances of resistance forming can be minimised by making sure the population crash is swift.

The same development which could allow mosquitos to be resistant to HEG could be used to reverse the process once it has started. It could also be used protect other species in case the HEG somehow jumped species. By introducing a replacement gene, which is "immune" to the HEG, it would be possible to reverse any damage which had been done. The carriers of the new gene would have such a large reproductive advantage that the new gene should spread quickly throughout the population.

Drawbacks

This proposal raises some difficult questions.  Why would we want to stop with the malaria mosquito and not use the same techniques to remove other deadly pests? There are many other diseases carried by insects (Tsetse fly, West Nile virus). As we remove species after species would it may become a more acceptable option, until removing mere annoyances such as normal mosquitos or ticks would be a possibility.

Once we start wiping species out can we stop powerful interests groups from using the same technology and rationale to make extinct other species? Crop pests, for example, cause millions of dollars of damage (in lost crops and cost of control) every year. Many farming interests would see the HEG technique as a possible way to save money. There may be environmental benefits from avoiding the use of pesticides, but the risk of making species extinct should not be taken lightly. When there are such powerful economic interests in favour of such action, would it be possible to stop them?

Other solutions

The HEG is just one possible technique of many for controlling malarial mosquito populations. It should be considerably more effective and powerful than other techniques, such as the release of sterile males. It is also unproven, untested and entirely speculative. Additionally, the release of genetically modified animals is hardly a popular technique. However, the problem of malaria is so prevalent and widespread across the globe that the most powerful techniques in the scientific arsenal may need to be used.

There are more mundane solutions to the malaria problem: bed-netting can save lives. Removing and banning stagnant water in which mosquitos breed is another important public health measure. It is easy to forget the simple but effective techniques when technological "silver bullets" present themselves.

Conclusion

Malaria is a problem that we seem to have been inured to or have forgotten about. It doesn't have the novelty of murder, war or disaster even though it kills many millions of people every year. Yet it is an important and significant issue, both in humanitarian and economic terms. If malaria were to be wiped out, it would be a milestone in medicine and genetic technology.

The answer to this entire question may seem obvious to many: Of course we should use HEGs to eradicate malaria. But caution must be the rule when making such monumental decisions as the future of an entire species. At a time when many people are desperately trying to save species, to contemplate the destruction of even the most harmful species seems somewhat contradictory.

In any case, it would be the first ever animal species destroyed by people who had full knowledge of the possible consequences of such an action. Humans have made hundreds species on the planet extinct but in every case it was accidental, not a planned eradication. If we have it within our power to make species extinct, we bear an awesome responsibility.  We must be sure not to misuse it for economic, rather than humanitarian, advantage.

References

New Scientist, 22 March 2003: Splat!, Oliver Morton

Thanks

Bob6

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Poll
Should HEGs be used to eradicate malaria?
o Yes, and it should be used for other diseases. 19%
o Yes. Malaria is a problem that must be solved. 23%
o Yes, given more time for the technology to develop. 10%
o Yes, other. 0%
o No. The dangers of using HEGs are too high. 15%
o No. Other proven and less risky techniques could work. 14%
o No. It won't work. 2%
o No, other. 13%

Votes: 76
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o suggested
o (technical overview)
o malaria
o across the globe
o for all recorded history
o economic
o Anopheles
o throughout
o sequenced
o Culicidae
o selfish genetic elements
o endonuclea se
o Homing endonucleases
o Tsetse fly
o West Nile virus
o bed-nettin g
o Also by twistedfirestarter


Display: Sort:
The end of malaria in sight? | 180 comments (167 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
I've had malaria more than 5 times (1.46 / 15) (#2)
by psychologist on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 09:43:03 AM EST

It is hardly worse than a cold to an adult. I have never heard of a full grown adult in good health that was killed by malaria. I guess that is why a cure has not been extensively looked for, and not because of bias against africa.

I have made this clearer (none / 0) (#5)
by twistedfirestarter on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 09:55:08 AM EST

Thanks

[ Parent ]
Cases and cases (none / 0) (#6)
by SanSeveroPrince on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 10:05:57 AM EST

on his first recurrence, my father had a dangerously high fever for a couple of weeks. It may not have killed him, but it definitely put him out of action more than a cold would have :)

----

Life is a tragedy to those who feel, and a comedy to those who think


[ Parent ]
Quinine is for sissies. (n/t) (none / 0) (#14)
by AmberEyes on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 10:47:32 AM EST

-AmberEyes


"But you [AmberEyes] have never admitted defeat your entire life, so why should you start now. It seems the only perfect human being since Jesus Christ himself is in our presence." -my Uncle Dean
[ Parent ]
True (3.33 / 3) (#16)
by Filthy Socialist Hippy on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 10:58:05 AM EST

But the malaria you get from screwing monkeys is different from the mosquito carried variety.

Incidentally, if you told me that the sky was blue, I'd look out of the window to check.

--
leftist, you don't love America, you love what America with all its wealth and power can be if you turn it into a socialist state. - thelizman
[ Parent ]

Anecdote (5.00 / 4) (#21)
by gauntlet on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 11:35:32 AM EST

My wife and four classmates travelled to Ghana on a nursing practicum. One of the students, drastically allergic to the prophelactic anti-malarials they were taking, caught malaria in the last week despite netting, bug sprays, and staying indoors in peak times for mosquito bites (i.e. dawn and dusk).

The malarial infestation entered her cerebral fluid, causing swelling and pressure on her brain. This resulted in days of seizures, loss of motor control, and eventual airlift by a german air ambulance to a British hospital. By the time she was treated in the british hospital, the disease had reacted to the drugs given in Ghana, and she thankfully recovered. To this day, she has no memory of the time between she first seized and her arrival at the hospital in the UK.

This is one case, and certainly an atypical one. But it demonstrates that at its worst, malaria is significantly more worrisome than the common cold.

On the other hand, unlike the common cold, malaria is eminently treatable.

Into Canadian Politics?
[ Parent ]

My friend caught it in Madagascar (5.00 / 2) (#55)
by michaelp on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 03:23:00 PM EST

it damaged her heart and her liver. Many adults who don't have immedidate modern care suffer organ damage & resulting life long heathe effects if they live through the disease.

Certainly with western health care and plenty of medicine the effects are much reduced, but it kills plenty of adults in places where health care is less than adequate.

It doesn't kill many in the first world since it doesn't do well in northern climes, first world health care and sanitation mostly stops it, and if you do get it first world hospitalization largely stops it.

Stats:

About 40% of the world's population - about two billion people - are at risk in about 90 countries and territories. 80 to 90% of malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa where 90% of the infected people live.

For American's perspective, it kills alot more innocent people than Saddam Hussein, and elminating it with HEG would cost alot less than 70 billion.


"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]
Yeah (5.00 / 1) (#88)
by Legato Bluesummers on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 08:01:41 PM EST

I've had malaria more than 5 times

It is hardly worse than a cold to an adult.

Yeah, so I guess the millions of people that get killed by malaria must just have really bad immune systems. How the hell have you had malaria 5 times?
--And many people have ended up looking very stupid, or dead, or both.
[ Parent ]

What a load of rubbish! (4.00 / 1) (#151)
by Hideyoshi on Sun Apr 06, 2003 at 10:21:26 AM EST

I've had malaria too, and it did nearly kill me. There is in no way, shape or form any comparison between malaria and the common cold.

Putting anecdotes aside, one thing some ignorant people don't realize is that there are two main types of malaria parasite, Plasmodium Falciparum and Plasmodium Vivax. Pretty much every native inhabitant of Sub-Saharan Africa is immune to P. Vivax because they lack the Duffy chemokine receptor on their red blood cells. The fact that nearly all sub-Saharan Africans have this variant Duffy gene shows that there must have been an extremely strong selective pressure in the past for it - in plain English, a lot of people died of it before they could pass on their genes. The ironic thing is that this is actually the milder form of malaria one can get.

The real killer is P. Vivax, and I doubt that anyone of European origin alive today would survive a bout of that kind of malaria without some sort of medical intervention - there's a reason why West Africa used to be called "the white man's grave", and this is it. This is the variant that nearly killed me, and if any of you has ever experienced it, there'd be no wavering in your minds about eradicating Anopheles from this Earth, namby-pamby hand-wringing about genetic-modification be damned!

I cannot believe that the fates of millions of human beings should be dependent on the ignorant ramblings of comfortable western brats who are more worried about preserving some idealized vision of nature than ridding their fellow human beings of one of the most destructive diseases in existence. Do you people think these supposed "alternatives" that you suggest are as easily available as you imagine? If they are, why do so many people still die from malaria each year? Some of you need to get out more, maybe go visit Africa yourselves and see/experience the costs of your flippant suggestions yourselves, and then maybe I might take you seriously.

It ought to be obvious that I take this issue personally, and for good reason: I've seen too many people die from this disease with my own eyes, for no fault of their own, other than the fact that they were poor, children, old people and , yes, adults.

[ Parent ]

I've had malaria more than a few times (5.00 / 1) (#161)
by MSL75 on Mon Apr 07, 2003 at 07:55:54 PM EST

Just a bunch of random thoughts: Growing up in the backwaters in Angola and Mozambique I've had my fair share of malaria cases, and to be honest it is nothing like the common cold - I used to get extremely high fever, loose weight, and from the medicine get highly nauseous - it had gotten to the point where I was becoming resistant to most drugs. So I was taking drugs just so that I could get better, but not totally cured because that would have built my resistance even more (given the amount of drugs I would have to take). It also damaged my liver. And yes, I have seen a grown healthy man die of malaria - cerebral malaria - a friend of our family died within a week of getting sick. To be honest I understand all those who are concerned about the extinction of species, but from my personal perspective having suffered from it - I'd say go ahead. Probably most people who've had malaria would agree. I find it somewhat hypocritical that everyone all of a sudden is concerned about the mosquitoes because it doesn't affect them, but when malaria existed in the "developed" world, swamps were dried out, poisoned, or in some cases covered with oil (in the Soviet Union). As someone trained in economics I tend to partially view the world from the cold perspective of the profit motivation (since we live in an age where sadly $$ is the king). I don't think that there is a bias against Africa, but simply that there isn't that much money to be made from coming with a solution to malaria. It disproportionately affects the poor and the "voiceless". Here is some info from the BBC: "Malaria kills over a million people a year and is second only to tuberculosis in its impact on world health. The parasitic disease is present in 90 countries and infects one in 10 of the world's population - mainly people living in Africa, India, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Colombia and the Solomon Islands. There are four main types of malaria, all spread via moquitoes. Ninety per cent of all malaria cases are in sub-Saharan Africa where it is the main cause of death and a major threat to child health. Worldwide, a child dies of malaria every 30 seconds. Pregnant women are also particularly vulnerable to the disease, which is curable if diagnosed early." http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/medical_notes/120644.stm

[ Parent ]
I didn't understand the population mechanics (4.00 / 1) (#9)
by nusuth on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 10:28:53 AM EST

Okay the technique is very different, but for killing potential how is this HEG utilizing scheme any different from introducing a recessive and fatal genetic disease to the population? We have plenty of such diseases but since the carriers are so few in number compared to the overall population, we are still not extinct. It is unclear why at some point carrier mosquito will be dominant in the population. Did I miss something?

Because (5.00 / 1) (#10)
by twistedfirestarter on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 10:32:30 AM EST

the HEG is activated when the sperm or egg cells divide it means that carriers create sperms and eggs with 2 copies of the HEG rather than 1. This means that their children must have a single copy, unlike a single recessive gene. And these children will produce sperms and eggs with 2 copies and so on...

Thanks for the input, I'll try to make this clearer.

[ Parent ]

OK, I get it now. (none / 0) (#20)
by nusuth on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 11:26:02 AM EST

I think the article is clear enough now. Also, this thread is topical, so your parent explanation will be around if the story gets posted.

[ Parent ]
Maybe a segue (5.00 / 1) (#15)
by sasquatchan on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 10:49:32 AM EST

that doesn't make sense, but an interesting part of the fight against malaria has been the use of  DDT. Before it was banned by most world nations, DDT was responsible for the elimination of malaria in many countries. Small pockets remained in hard to reach 3rd world areas. Once DDT was no longer in use, malaria cases rebounded heavily from record lows.

I think it's an interesting example of the balancing act done as we relate to our environment, plus the unforseen consequences of actions and results.
-- The internet is not here for your personal therapy.

What if (none / 0) (#18)
by sllort on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 11:03:45 AM EST

We isolated the gene that made DDT useless and linked it to this deadly marker, and then started spraying DDT again?

Then we might actually have something.
--
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]

DDT (3.00 / 2) (#35)
by catseye on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 01:26:45 PM EST

DDT is also dangerous to humans and animals. My father in law has diabetes that is directly attributed to DDT exposure as a child.

----------
How can we fight Islamic Fundamentalism abroad if we do not fight Christian Fundamentalism at home?
[ Parent ]
It's a balance (5.00 / 1) (#86)
by Legato Bluesummers on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 07:45:10 PM EST

You gotta balance pros and cons. We obviously don't need to unban DDT here. But it some third world countries where millions die of malaria, like Sri Lanka, DDT would be very effective. Yes, a few people would get health problems from it. But that is outweighed by the number saved from malaria and other insect borne diseases.
--And many people have ended up looking very stupid, or dead, or both.
[ Parent ]
Is this some kind of ironic late april fools? (1.75 / 4) (#17)
by sllort on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 10:59:27 AM EST

So, sickle cell anemia is a disease which, when recessive, provides resistance to malaria, but when dominant kills. And you're proposing to wipe out malaria by introducing a genetic trait which, when recessive, is beneficial, but when dominant kills.

If sickle cell anemia hasn't wiped out humans, how can this wipe out mosquitoes? don't non-HEG carrying mosquitoes have a huge long term Darwinian advantage? Seems like you'd have to make the HEG go dormant for three hundred generations before deploying its "payload" to make this work.

At the very least I see the parallels between the disease malaria mosquitoes created (sickle cell) and the disease that we're creating to wipe out mosquitoes rather ironic.
--
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.

There's no emoticon for what I'm feeling (5.00 / 1) (#22)
by Filthy Socialist Hippy on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 11:50:22 AM EST

Did you even read the story?

The difference is that the HEG gene is always (or nearly so) passed on to the children if one parent is a carrier.

Contrast with sickle cell, where if one parent is a carrier, only half of the children are likely to be carriers.

Shall we go on, or are you getting it yet?

--
leftist, you don't love America, you love what America with all its wealth and power can be if you turn it into a socialist state. - thelizman
[ Parent ]

I caught that. (none / 0) (#23)
by sllort on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 11:58:21 AM EST

Right, it doesn't follow the recessive/dominant pattern of your standard genetic disease, i.e. malaria. Doesn't make me believe that the mosquitoes without this marker won't have a gigantic Darwinian advantage, though. It's the Jurassic Park argument: life finds a way. r-strategists like mosquitoes have gigantic populations from which to give birth to adaptive mutations. Their evolutionary process moves much faster than K-strategists like us.

They developed an immunity to DDT in 50 years. They'll beat this, too.

You're one of those assholes who moderates and replies in the same thread. I wish I was that cool. *sniff*
--
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]

Backpedal away, hippy (3.00 / 2) (#24)
by Filthy Socialist Hippy on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 12:04:10 PM EST

Your movie based argument really convinces me.  In other news: oh nooooooooo, what if an airborne Ebola suddenly appears, just like in that movie with Rain Main and the little monkey.  We're doooooooomed!

If the little fuckers mutate, we can tailor up a new way to wipe them out.  And just keep doing it and doing it.  They evolve, we invent.  DDT was a first attempt.  I'm betting on us in the long run.

Yes, I'm an asshole, but then again, you're a bombastic Chicken Littlish cretin, so we're pretty much even.

--
leftist, you don't love America, you love what America with all its wealth and power can be if you turn it into a socialist state. - thelizman
[ Parent ]

I relent. (2.00 / 1) (#25)
by sllort on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 12:13:28 PM EST

All your scientific arguments have beaten me!
--
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]
Thus we see (3.00 / 4) (#27)
by Filthy Socialist Hippy on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 12:17:48 PM EST

Why spineless liberals make up the extraneous middle of the social pyramid, while the real work is done by real men, their minds not clouded by doubt or logic or foolish notions of compromise or consensus.

--
leftist, you don't love America, you love what America with all its wealth and power can be if you turn it into a socialist state. - thelizman
[ Parent ]
What can I say (2.50 / 2) (#60)
by sllort on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 04:31:51 PM EST

You blinded me with (a complete lack of) science.
--
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]
Malaria is not a genetic disease (none / 0) (#30)
by SimonTzu on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 12:58:03 PM EST

Its a parasite.
--
Simon Tzu
Storyteller
www.deeptalent.com
[ Parent ]
My bad, s/malaria/sickle cell anemia/ (none / 0) (#50)
by sllort on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 02:49:40 PM EST


--
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]
It's more selective than DDT (none / 0) (#41)
by ShadowNode on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 01:58:54 PM EST

DDT would kill most mosquitos (and everything else...), leaving the resistant survivors to reproduce the population back up. This would kill all, or more likely most, of the carrier species, leaving the non-carrier species to take over.

[ Parent ]
DDT killed directly (5.00 / 2) (#54)
by michaelp on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 03:12:00 PM EST

so there was strong selection pressure toward resitence: it always killed you unless it didn't, and if it didn't you were resistent and as soon as you found another resistent of the right kind you made lots of resistent babies.

This method gets around that by not killing the mosquito outright, but by letting the bug have lots of babies, and then only killing some of them and some of theirs, etc. until the mosquitoes are all gone. Thus the selective pressure toward resistence is much reduced: carriers won't have any disadvantage wrt non-carriers in resource competition. Resistent bugs will make lots more baby bugs, but then another HEG can be targetted on them.

Whether or not the mosquitos will develop resistence a particular HEG will largely be moot, since the hard part of these things is the first one, subsequent ones should be much easier: simply swap enough base pairs around to fool the resistence and re-release as necessary. Since there is no toxic effects to other species, one doesnt' have the problem of pesticide resistence, and of course one can use HEG in conjunction with traditional methods to eliminate (finally) the disease.


"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]
True (none / 0) (#58)
by sllort on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 04:23:58 PM EST

What I'm saying is that I think that evolution is not so simple as to only work to select against traits that are deadly to the immediate generation. Children without the HEG marker are more likely to have healthy offspring. There is selection pressure against the HEG marker, it's just delayed by one generation.

There are billions of mosquitoes. Somewhere, somehow, two mosquitoes without the HEG will find each other and breed. Their offspring will be more successful.

I just don't think we can commit "mosquitoe genocide" with this technique, especially since the HEG has no selection advantage. Apparently everyone thinks I'm wrong, though... and I could be (-:
--
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]

Fair point (4.00 / 2) (#66)
by twistedfirestarter on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 05:13:43 PM EST

Somewhere, somehow, two mosquitoes without the HEG will find each other and breed. Their offspring will be more successful.

My thoughts were the same when I first read about it. But such things can be statistically calculated, (the subejct is called epidemiology think) and according to the article in question the effects of a release should be devastating if there is enough of an initial release and the HEG replication process is made fail-proof.

Consder that the non-carrier mosquitos won't be all alone together - they will be in a minority. In all probability they will mate with one of the many carrier mosquitos and have children which will be carriers.

But your point of view is reasonable. I wouldn't be too sure of the statistics either until more study is done.

[ Parent ]

percentages (none / 0) (#83)
by kubalaa on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 07:15:29 PM EST

I think the result is that, percentage-wise, yes, non-carriers will rapidly dominate the population. The theory is that numerically this won't matter because there will soon be so few non-carriers. Although I too am dubious that complete genocide is possible.

[ Parent ]
Hmm. (none / 0) (#87)
by Legato Bluesummers on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 07:59:38 PM EST

I think the result is that, percentage-wise, yes, non-carriers will rapidly dominate the population. The theory is that numerically this won't matter because there will soon be so few non-carriers. Although I too am dubious that complete genocide is possible.

Yeah, I doubt complete genocide is possible. But keep in mind that it would be pretty hard for mosquitoes to develop a gene which counteracted the effect of the HEG.  So say if you kill of 70% of a population with an HEG before the gene was rooted out, you could reduce it more by just releasing a new population of infected insects.

With pesticides, you get resistance to the chemical. With HEG, an insect population doesn't get resistence to anything. The gene just gets rooted out from the population. There would be no barrier to re-releases of infected insects.
--And many people have ended up looking very stupid, or dead, or both.
[ Parent ]

DDT Resistance? (5.00 / 2) (#90)
by RobotSlave on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 08:49:03 PM EST

Could you provide a citation for your assertion that "They [mosquitoes] developed an immunity to DDT in 50 years?"

From what I've read, it seems some populations avoid areas sprayed with DDT, but I haven't heard of any that are immune to it.

Moreover, the "resistant" populations have developed only in areas where DDT was used in large-scale agricultural applications; when it was used specificly to eradicate malaria (not the malaria-bearing mosquito!), no "resistance" developed.

[ Parent ]

Actually (4.50 / 2) (#29)
by bob6 on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 12:39:20 PM EST

Sickle cell anemia doesn't give full immunity to malaria. You can still get it but clinical signs will be weaker.

Cheers.
[ Parent ]
Generations (none / 0) (#31)
by catseye on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 01:05:39 PM EST

300 generations of mosquitoes is like what... 10 minutes?

At least it seems that way in Texas in the summer.

----------
How can we fight Islamic Fundamentalism abroad if we do not fight Christian Fundamentalism at home?
[ Parent ]

HEG's "cheat" in natural selection (4.00 / 1) (#53)
by Big Sexxy Joe on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 03:09:37 PM EST

Since you will have two copies of the gene even if only one of your parents has it, the HEG has a very strong advantage over the regular allele. Evolution is about success of the gene, not success of the host.

I read about another destructive HEG in "The Selfish Gene." It affects rabbits. When it comes into a population it is disasterous. It basically wipes out the population. It refered to them as "segragation distorters" but I think it was talking about the same thing.

I'm like Jesus, only better.
Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour
[ Parent ]

Yes, but... (none / 0) (#59)
by sllort on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 04:29:18 PM EST

Segregation distorters are usually unable to overcome an entire population.

Which is what I was trying to say. I'm not saying it won't wipe out most mosquitoes. Just not all of them. And eventually, since they're r-strategists, they'll come back.

I'm not sure what everyone thought I said, but that's what I was trying to say.
--
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]

Obviously (4.71 / 7) (#26)
by duxup on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 12:15:31 PM EST

Anyone who watches science fiction shows knows that all this will do is create a super massive mosquito impervious to our weapons that will go on a rampage until Godzilla destroys it.

You forgot a consequence (3.66 / 3) (#28)
by jubal3 on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 12:20:03 PM EST

as tumeric pointed out. What happens when you wipe out and entire species using genetic manipulation? Answer? We don't know. DDT was a great solution until all the birds started dying. But at least we could STOP using DDT. I'm wary of a final solution that this this final. -Even for mosquitoes.


***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***
I voted 'No, other' (none / 0) (#33)
by nusuth on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 01:11:31 PM EST

Thinking along the same lines. Now I feel I wasn't really justified.

We should have some faith in our understanding of nature. It is not all kinds of mosquito the scheme will kill, it is just one nasty kind of them. Effects on ecosystem shouldn't even be noticeable.

Also, it is not so final. We can always preserve a small group of them and if it turns out they are badly needed, release them into wildlife.

[ Parent ]

Same as wiping out polio, etc. (5.00 / 1) (#49)
by michaelp on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 02:48:41 PM EST

it's gone & good riddence.

Disease organisms are trying to kill us, hello. Human beings are prey to these things, and just like using the pointed sticks against the lions back in 100,000BC, we should fight back with the best weapons we got in 2003 AD.


"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]
Not exactly the same. (3.00 / 3) (#74)
by Work on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 06:04:22 PM EST

Polio, smallpox and other viruses aren't living organisms and aren't really part of the planetary food chain. They're little more than viral packets of DNA and RNA that kill and cripple humans.

Mosquitos on the other hand feed birds and other organisms. They *are* part of the global foodweb.

We should be cautious about this.

[ Parent ]

Academic distinctions (5.00 / 3) (#91)
by michaelp on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 08:58:22 PM EST

depending on your definition of life, for many biologists viruses certainly are life.

While they certainly don't provide much nutrition, virii certainly play a role in the natural "foodweb", as do other predators.

If lions were running around the USA killing a million children a year, you bet there would be a serious effort to eradicate them, regardless of how important they might to some pattern someone noticed nature making at a particular time.


"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]
hah. (none / 0) (#97)
by Work on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 11:08:27 PM EST

Find me a biologist that considers a virus to be living.

[ Parent ]
I've found (5.00 / 1) (#102)
by michaelp on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 01:57:29 AM EST

plenty.


"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]
No. (none / 0) (#104)
by Work on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 03:07:14 AM EST

"life cycle" doesn't imply living. My computer has a life cycle.

Here's a more accurate google.

No reputable biologist considers viruses to be alive.

[ Parent ]

Read your own links (5.00 / 1) (#108)
by michaelp on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 04:24:20 AM EST

the very first one is a discussion of the fact that some biologists think viruses are alive while others don't, with arguments on both sides.

And in your 4th link (assuming you managed to skip the email virus one) your outlandish claim: No reputable biologist considers viruses to be alive. is soundly falsified by your own evidence;-).

Answer: There is a tremendous debate about this question - scientists do not agree on the answer. Some people consider them to be just a bunch of chemicals. Other people consider them to be living parasites, because they require the metabolic machinery of host cells to survive. But they do reproduce, and they do have genetic material, so many people consider them to be the simplest living organisms. Probably the safest answer is that viruses have both living and nonliving characteristics. Source: BIOLOGY, by Neil Campbell, third edition

My computer has a life cycle.

O and it gets viruses too, so it must be alive...

Try to stay in context, if something has a life cycle in the context of biology, then obviously many people think it is alive.

In context, if your computer one day made a bunch of little computers all by itself, many folks would say it was alive, even if it had to take apart your fridge in the process.



"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]
Firstly, (none / 0) (#63)
by twistedfirestarter on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 04:51:59 PM EST

we do know what happens when you wipe out a species in general; It doesn't come back. There may be unforeseen ecological side-effects, but it can and does happen.

Using HEGs should be no different from conventional methods - as I've said, HEGs are not like contagious diseases. They only spread by reproduction. Because different species, by definition, have trouble reproducing with each other the risk of HEGs spreading to other species is minimal.

OTOH you have every reason to be wary of these scientific claims. After all, nuclear power was also deemed "perfectly safe".

[ Parent ]

I've had malaria (4.80 / 5) (#32)
by SimonTzu on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 01:08:14 PM EST

I contracted a virulent resistant strain of malaria in Mozambique in 1988 - it was pretty intense.

As it was a resistant strain it did not respond to the modern drugs so I was on a quinine drip which left me feeling incredibly nauseous.  Eventually I had near total liver failure and my red blood cell count got so low I needed about 5 litres of blood.  Luckily I got very good medical care which most people in Africa cannot afford.  

A recent Econmoist article showed that effective strategies for tackling malaria were really good for the economy as people spent less money on drugs and less time taking care of the sick.

I don't think xenocide ahould be considered lightly but if we are sure that the weapon is safe I think we should consider it.  We do have some idea of what effects killing off a species has we've wiped out enough of them.  

--
Simon Tzu
Storyteller
www.deeptalent.com

How do we know it will be safe? (none / 0) (#64)
by hardburn on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 04:56:37 PM EST

How can we possibly know, will all certainty, that wiping out a species will have zero negitive consequences on a system as vast and interconnected as Earth's ecosystem?

How could we possibly know if, for example, malaria-bearing mosquitos happen to also live in symbios with certain species of plant that we've never seen yet? And that it turns out this plant emits a certain chemical that we didn't even know about that is essential for human survivial? If you want to get really far fetched, how could we know if these mosquitos are communicating with an alien species on the other side of the galaxy, and the aliens will come and beat us up in a few hundred years if we wipe out their buddies, like in Star Trek IV?


----
while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }


[ Parent ]
Prove to me that you exist. (5.00 / 2) (#69)
by Anonymous 7324 on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 05:32:50 PM EST

That's right, you can't. You're a mere hallucination, I say. The point is that there's obviously no way to know anything beyond the shadow of a doubt.

You seem to realize this with the "far-fetched" theory of aliens, but does that mean that I should be worried that some giant purple things are going to come back in a thousand years because we killed their buddies, the smallpox virus? I don't think so.

And as for extinction, I'll trot out the old-and-tired (but nonetheless still true) argument: namely, that we've had no trouble killing hundreds or thousands of species in the rainforests, without anyone ever bothering to ask what the impacts are. To be consistent, I hope you also feel strongly that the world should put pressure on logging companies to stop deforestation, especially since there we're not even wiping out pests?

[ Parent ]

I'm just a Perl script (2.33 / 3) (#98)
by hardburn on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 12:25:37 AM EST

If I don't really exist, but rather, am just a Perl script that knows how to connect to K5 over HTTP and write human-looking posts, the potential consequences to the planet are pretty much nil, except perhaps the extra bit of energy it takes to keep my electrons with the proper state in memory.

If we wipe out a species without being absolutely certain what we are doing, the potential consequences could be disaster. If its impossible to know for sure (which is quite likely), then we shouldn't do it.

Yes, the alien thing is incrediably far fetched. I only use it as an example of how we can't possibly know the consequences. We may not even feel the consequences until centuries later.

Naturally, the same goes for logging companies. Given the biodiversity of the rainforest, it's quite likely that they've wiped out species we had no idea existed. We have even less of a chance to understand the consequences.

When I read the above article, I had a startling sense of awe. At the danger of sounding trite, it seemed like the sort of thing one only reads about in Science Fiction. I know some people are debating if it is even possible, but assuming that it is, I cannot see the wisdom in such an act.

Logging companies at least have the excuse that they are essentially overgrown children who are blundering around. Destroying species is a side effect of their work, not the goal. In the mosquito case, however, destruction of selected speices is the primary goal.


----
while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }


[ Parent ]
It is, I agree (none / 0) (#118)
by Anonymous 7324 on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 09:24:05 AM EST

the primary goal here. It's balanced IMO by the fact that there's at least been some attempt to think about and study the effects, and additionally, that the target here will be highly specific, unlike indiscriminate logging's consequences.

I guess in my mind a reasonable study and the high specificity balance the "lack of malice" (debatable I think) of logging companies. I mean, certainly stupid things have happened before: the non-urban legend bits about human control of Australian fauna and flora are utter horror stories.

But lastly, given that we know logging companies are destroying species and not taking the least care, this may well be thought of as being malicious. And when the species goes extinct, whether it was a deliberate act or a side effect I don't think has much effect on how the ecosystem responds, so I don't quite grok that bit of your reply.

[ Parent ]

Pascal's Wager. (none / 0) (#133)
by vectro on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 06:12:32 PM EST

What you present is essentially Pascal's Wager, which goes thus: I know not whether or not there is a god. But I choose to believe, because the penalty for failing to believe in the (highly unlikely) case that there is a god is infinately painful.

Consider the following four cases:

  • No god. No belief. No punishment.
  • No god. Belief. No punishment.
  • God. Belief. No punishment.
  • No god. No belief. Punishment.
Since the outcome of the last case is so horrendous, it overrides its low probability.

I leave as an exercise to the reader possible responses to Pascal's argument.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]

eh? (none / 0) (#173)
by FredBloggs on Wed Apr 09, 2003 at 07:57:51 PM EST

Oh, there's a mistake on your last option.

[ Parent ]
But wait, there's more! (4.00 / 3) (#96)
by Merc on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 10:54:24 PM EST

Ask Australians about the potential problems with trying to get rid of certain species. The problem is that things tend to have unintended consequences. The writeup itself says "There may also be unknown roles played by mosquitos in the ecology", to which I would add, there may be unknown roles played by malaria in the ecology, or even additional roles played by the malaria mosquito.

The fact that some species of mosquito carry malaria and others don't means that the mosquito species are different. Who knows what other differences there may be? Maybe the mosquitos that move in on the territory where the Anopheles die off will lack some very important property the other ones had, or maybe they'll turn out to be carriers for something far worse.

Malaria is an awful disease, and maybe this could get rid of it, and help a lot of people live better lives, but if we're going to intentionally wipe out a species, let's be really cautious. Here's what I'd suggest.

  • at least a year of public consultation where people can weigh in on the possible unintended consequences
  • a test run of the process in a completely isolated area, but one with the same properties as the target area so that any potential side effects can be seen and caught before it's too late
  • backup your data -- make sure there's a way to re-introduce the Anopheles into the environment in case something unexpected does happen
  • intense pre-eradication and post-eratication studies so that any changes in the environment can be spotted
  • a plan to deal with the forseeable consequences: if infant mortality rates plummet, have a tested, workable plan to keep the population growth in check, if livestock have large potential new feeding grounds, have a way to ensure they don't result in other species becoming extinct...

How often does a move so big not have undesirable and unforseen consequences? In Australia only 101 cane toads were initially introduced, but each female can lay up to 20,000 eggs. But at least cane toads can't fly. The idea of messing with a flying insect just seems so dangerous to me.

But, although it scares the bahjeezus out of me, I expect that eventually this, or something like it will be done. I just really hope that by the time it is done for real in the wild we really know what the consequenses will be.



[ Parent ]
it's not *really* xenocide (none / 0) (#180)
by simul on Tue May 13, 2003 at 03:09:53 PM EST

it only kills malaria-bearing mosquitos... they are lots of mosquitos that don't carry malaria...

Read this book - first 24 pages are free to browse - it rocks
[ Parent ]
Using a hammer to swat a fly (2.33 / 3) (#36)
by Estanislao Martínez on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 01:33:54 PM EST

Heh, it's halfway literal in this case.

What happened to the simple old solution of sanitation and medicines? Ah, yes, I remember, it got pushed aside in the interest of making more money, given that money is very useful to an important end, that of making more money.

--em

It has been known for decades that sanitation (5.00 / 3) (#46)
by michaelp on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 02:29:01 PM EST

& medicine can reduce the problem, but these are just preventative measures rather than cures and not very effective due to the realities on the ground.

The problem is of course that sanitation and medicines cost alot of money and require infrastructures that are often lacking in the places where the problem is worst. Setting up open distribution networks for medicines and implementing modern sanitation systems has also proven difficult due to cultural and local regime structure issues which are also very expensive in both $ and human lives to change.

While using genetic engineering to cause disease bearing/causing organism extinction is expensive, it is much less expensive than the social and physical engineering that would be required to fix the problem if we didn't know how to do the biology.


"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]
The old solution (3.50 / 2) (#75)
by godix on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 06:32:54 PM EST

...was stopped after first world countries rid themselves of malaria. DDT saved America and Europe, and the grateful first world made damned sure it wouldn't save Africa or South America as well. Money wasn't the motive though, it was a 'Oh those poor birds are worth so much more than millions of niggers in the Congo' mindset that did it.


"You think we're arrogant, and we think you're French."
- George Herbert Walker B
[
Parent ]
Um, no (2.50 / 2) (#79)
by twistedfirestarter on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 06:45:48 PM EST

DDT is still used in less developed countries. The West has no power to stop other countries using pesticides. The main problem is resistance and the abundance of mosquitos.

[ Parent ]
DDT in the third world (3.66 / 3) (#82)
by godix on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 07:01:51 PM EST

Oh really? 3rd world populations are dying because DDT is banned.

Please notice that many of these links are to enviromental organizations against the ban. DDT could have eliminated Malaria. Rachel Carson wrote a somewhat scientifically quesionable book about it. After reading her book the first world decided we'd rather have birds than niggers.

By this point you might be right about mosquito resistance though. We COULD have eliminated malaria years, and millions of African lives, earlier but because of America and Europes racism and fetish for sad looking pictures of dead birds we only MIGHT be able to now.


"You think we're arrogant, and we think you're French."
- George Herbert Walker B
[
Parent ]

Well (3.66 / 3) (#85)
by twistedfirestarter on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 07:22:41 PM EST

Your links show that there was a proposed ban on DDT, but that it was just for agricultural use. There's a more recent treaty, I believe, but no treaty can stop a country using DDT if it really wants to. The problem is simply too big and too expensive for pesticides alone to solve.

First world nations banning third world nations from using DDT is a myth. The real problem has and always will be resistance, which is made worse by DDT being overused by farming interests.

[ Parent ]

Mr. Burt is clearly NOT a real biologist, (1.44 / 9) (#38)
by Kasreyn on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 01:46:53 PM EST

Or he would OF COURSE be aware of the DEVASTATING ecological ramifications of wiping out entire species. How can one become a biologist without going through 8th-grade (or the British equivalent) life science courses that explain this concept in terms a child could understand?

Well, a recap for all the would-be biologists out there: Earth's ecosystem is a vastly interconnected web. Knock out any one node (species), and the entire structure will begin to unravel. Kill off the mosquitoes, and what will happen to the birds and bats that prey on them? What will happen to the animals parasitized by the mosquitoes? These are things that MUST be considered, not just whether it is most expedient for mankind to kill a "nuisance" species.

I can't believe any self-respecting biologist would be so ignorant as to think that annihilating a species, just to stop a mere disease vector, is a good idea. This is one of the more foolish ideas I have seen in a long time.

I understand that malaria causes terrible suffering. So, instead of a plan that will result in damaging the ecosystem, let's work on a malaria vaccine.


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
That was covered (5.00 / 1) (#39)
by ShadowNode on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 01:52:40 PM EST

In that there are many non-carrier mosquito species that could fill the ecological gap.

[ Parent ]
Read the story again... (5.00 / 3) (#40)
by Squidward on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 01:57:26 PM EST

Only a subset of mosquitoes carry malaria. This scheme would specifically target malaria mosquitoes, leaving other, harmless mosquitoes to fill the ecological niche.

I'm certainly not an expert, but I imagine if malaria mosquitoes were wiped out, the other types would flourish due to less competition, and animals who rely on mosquitoes in some way would barely notice a difference.

[ Parent ]

read the story before you spout off next time n/t (5.00 / 1) (#44)
by Hamster on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 02:06:08 PM EST



[ Parent ]
TROOOL! (5.00 / 2) (#47)
by tkatchev on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 02:43:30 PM EST

troooooooooool!!

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

entire structure will begin to unravel ! (5.00 / 2) (#61)
by lordpixel on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 04:32:57 PM EST

Got to love the emotive language.

"DEVASTATING ecological ramifications"

"entire structure will begin to unravel"

Or maybe there'd be no effect at all as other species moved in to fill the gaps. Or maybe something inbetween.

This is a tricky question and deserving of study, but you're not helping by running around screaming about how the sky will inevitably fall on us.

I am the cat who walks through walls, all places and all times are alike to me.
[ Parent ]

Devastating? (5.00 / 2) (#81)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 06:48:25 PM EST

We've wiped out species before, once even with a deliberate decision to do so, and it's perhaps not a good thing, but the ecology was not always devastated...

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Cannot vaccinate against a parasite (5.00 / 1) (#100)
by nicion on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 01:09:04 AM EST

Malaria is a blood parasite, and you, sir, are a troll.  Many forms of prophylaxis are available, though each has its draw backs from a long term use perspective.

During long term stays in malarious areas, skipping the prophylaxis is generally OK.  Mosquito nets, bug spray, and simply avoiding being out at dawn and dusk are effective methods for avoiding malaria.  It is still a good idea to keep some stock of atovaquone and proguanil HCl (Malarone) or mefloquine (Larium) to treat yourself should symptoms arrise.

[ Parent ]

re: Larium (none / 0) (#146)
by ti dave on Sun Apr 06, 2003 at 05:02:49 AM EST

Stay away from that crap.
I'm currently dealing with those problems.

Endorsed by the American Taliban Association
[ Parent ]

not exactly. (none / 0) (#155)
by Vellmont on Sun Apr 06, 2003 at 05:17:39 PM EST

There are people working on a malaria vaccine, and vaccines have been developed.  None however have proven safe and effective.  You're correct that it's more difficult to develop a vaccine against a protozoan.  It's never been done before, we've only developed vaccines against viruses and bacteria.

[ Parent ]
Should've googled... (none / 0) (#164)
by nicion on Tue Apr 08, 2003 at 02:00:25 AM EST

It certainly would have saved me putting my foot in my mouth. In any case, the Malaria Vaccine Initiative has a lot of good information on the efforts to develop a vaccine for malaria.

That being said, the methods of avoiding exposure and being prepared for treatement are sound. Antimalarial drugs are extremely cheap by western standards in many third world countries (India comes to mind), but unfortunately, these drugs are still priced well out of reach of the general population.

[ Parent ]
biology != ecology (none / 0) (#139)
by ajdecon on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 07:53:26 PM EST

I am not a student of biology, but...

While certainly one would think that the biologist in question would be somewhat aware of the concepts of diversity and the "web of life", you can't assume that he'd be well-grounded enough to accurately asses the impact of such an action. Also, you cannot look at this scientist's work as suggesting, "This is what must be done!"

He has suggested a possible course of action which might be effective (if not necessarily desirable), and as a biologist that is likely the entire picture for him. It is up to specialists in ecology and the governments and people involved to decide whether this methodology should be used.


--
"Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself."
-Richard Feynman
[ Parent ]
Another argument for world government (2.33 / 3) (#42)
by Alhazred on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 02:00:59 PM EST

And fast!

This is just the tip of the iceburg of course. Today we have 'germ warfare' with people making Anthrax or Small Pox. As this story illustrates, there are FAR more deadly forms of 'biological warfare' possible. There are MANY species we depend on critically for various environmental services. What will stop various nations from developing technologies like HEGs to blast holes in eachother's ecologies?

Don't say 'It won't happen'. Nuclear weapons are basically just as insane, yet they continue to spread willy-nilly across the world. There are plenty of ruthless thugs in the world.

We need SOME way to put a brake on this kind of thing. It is simply not acceptable that various groups around the world can be left to their own devices to mess with this stuff!

I mean I don't like the idea of intrusive government, but we at least need PEACE and world-wide law.
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.

Humans have much longer generations (none / 0) (#62)
by twistedfirestarter on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 04:50:09 PM EST

25 y rather than 3 weeks...But I suspect IHBT.

[ Parent ]
Attacking humans is irrelevant (none / 0) (#167)
by Alhazred on Tue Apr 08, 2003 at 01:03:23 PM EST

Humans depend on 1000's of other species. Now maybe it would be difficult or impossible to figure out one or two species you could knock out that would do something as drastic as kill everyone off, but what if you just annihilated the 5 most common kinds of seaweed living off your enemy's coast?

Your victim probably wouldn't even realize what was happening until it was way too late.

(actually seaweed, algae, maybe isn't vulnerable to this, but something is).

Besides my real point is that technology is a pandora's box. It offers limitless ways to kill and destroy, and it is always easier to destroy than to create, or to defend against destruction.

The very philosophy of violence "violentism" is the problem. Truthfully even World Government is not the 'answer', but it is a manifestation of the answer, PEACE.
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
[ Parent ]

HEG (1.62 / 8) (#43)
by Dickie Crickets on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 02:01:12 PM EST

HEG, HEG,
Baby loves that HEG.
No malaria for me,
Killin' tsetses all day loooooooong.


--
King of Megaphone Crooners
sleeping sickness (none / 0) (#99)
by Cloud Cuckoo on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 01:01:54 AM EST

The Tsetse fly carriers Sleeping Sickness not Malaria. It is known throughout Africa as the "cattle killer."

[ Parent ]
HEG (none / 0) (#179)
by Kid Jersey on Sat May 03, 2003 at 04:57:51 PM EST

H-E-G, it's so nice,
Kills mosquitoes all night long.
H-E-G, I've used it twice,
Penicillin, so loooooong!


Thank you
[ Parent ]
Is this possible (4.75 / 4) (#45)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 02:06:31 PM EST

I'm just wondering if this is possible. I know nothing about malaria.

If this species of moquito is the only way that malaria spreads, then wouldn't the disease be eradicated? Once all the mosquitos are extinct in the wild, we could reintroduce the species without the genetic modification and allow it to establish itself again, except there would be no malaria to spread. Would this work? Do the mosquitos get malaria from somewhere else such as standing water?

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.

exactly (5.00 / 2) (#110)
by Vellmont on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 04:56:54 AM EST

Here's something I found from the Malaria Foundation International that should answer your question.  The short answer is yes, if we could eliminate malaria from a region, then the mosquitos wouldn't matter:

# Malaria parasites have a complex life cycle. In order to live, they need to have both a human and a mosquito host.
# The mosquito host can't be just "any" mosquito. It has to be a mosquito of the genus Anopheles.
# The mosquito picks up the malaria parasites from the blood of an infected human when it feeds.
# The malaria parasite reproduces itself in the gut of the Anopheles mosquito. The malaria parasites need the mosquito to continue their life cycle. Then, the mosquito passes the malaria parasites to the human through its salivary glands.

So if we eliminated the mosquitos, then treated all the remaining cases of malaria, the cycle would be broken.  You'd probbably have to screen a lot of people though, since I believe some people still carry malaria, though aren't sick.  With the transmission method eliminated, however treating all the cases would likely be a lot cheaper, since you wouldn't have any new cases to contend with.

[ Parent ]

Eliminate humans? (none / 0) (#178)
by DarthBOFH on Wed Apr 16, 2003 at 01:30:32 PM EST

If the life cycle depends on humans, than we only need to get rid of ourselves and the malaria plague would be over.

[ Parent ]
Could we wipe out whole human ethnicities? (2.00 / 3) (#48)
by skyknight on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 02:44:02 PM EST

It would take a very patient geneticist to practice human genocide in this fashion, but I can't help but wonder about the possibilities... Just corrupt the genes, encourage inbreeding, wait a few centuries and... voila! Master race here we come!

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
Human 'ethnicities' are a myth on a genetic level (5.00 / 4) (#52)
by michaelp on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 02:58:44 PM EST

it's like colors of dogs or horses, it would be nearly impossible to do since there are no "white" or "black" genes, just fewer genes for melanin producing cells, different numbers (of the same) genes for growth hormone producing cells, etc. I don't think anyone has even found one gene that one race 'has' all to itself (even things like the resistence to malaria that comes along with sickle cell anemia is simply more common in African Americans than in Northern Europeans, not unique).

So any such 'weapon' would be nearly impossible to target on any particular ethnicity.

If one had the kind of physical and intellectual resources coupled with murderous insanity (brilliant geneticists don't often need to work for insane dictators in this day and age) you are talking about, a simple super bug coupled with a vaccine given only to to the chosen few would be a much more effective solution.


"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]
You misunderstand me... (5.00 / 1) (#71)
by skyknight on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 05:59:52 PM EST

I'm not saying that one could target the ethnicity directly by attacking some race specific portion of the human genome. Rather, what someone with malicious intent could do would be to infect a particular ethnicity with some kind of suicidal gene as described by the author, exploiting the fact that while inter-racial mate selection does occur, the vast majority of mate selection is intra-racial. Do you understand now? I'm not saying that such a thing practical, but it's an interesting thought problem if we're exploring potential abuses for the technology.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Not bloody likely (4.75 / 4) (#101)
by psychologist on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 01:45:08 AM EST

If you infected black Americans, the most likely people to die will be all americans, and not all black people in africa, asia, europe, etc.

Mating is intra-country, and not intra-racial.

[ Parent ]

but (5.00 / 1) (#106)
by livus on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 03:54:01 AM EST

wouldn't that have the side effect of doing the same thingto everyone else?

I think the intra-racial thing seems more pronounced to you because e.g you probably classify the offspring of white/black pairings as black.

---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]

sickle cell (4.00 / 1) (#72)
by Work on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 06:00:28 PM EST

The reasons sickle cell is more common in africa (and people of african descent) is directly the result of natural selection caused by malaria.

In africa, where malaria is common place, malaria has less of an effect on those with sickle cell. As a result, people who are sickle cell free and get malaria are more likely to die, hence the increased incidence of it.

Even then though, sickle cell only affects about 1/3rd the population at most in some very remote parts of africa.

[ Parent ]

Not quite (5.00 / 3) (#93)
by michaelp on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 09:09:02 PM EST

When malarial parasites invade the bloodstream, the red cells that contain defective hemoglobin become sickled and die, trapping the parasites inside them and reducing infection.

Having one copy of the sickle cell gene means half your blood cells are deadly traps for Plasmodium.

Two copies confers anemia.

The fact that some folks get anemia is a trade off for many folks being plasmodium killers.


"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]
At least two forms of sickle cell anemia (none / 0) (#162)
by cevans7 on Mon Apr 07, 2003 at 11:16:29 PM EST

there is a variant found in some Indian populations which isn't any where near as deadly as the African variety (6 years max life span without treatment). In some towns in India there are people with two copies of the gene which are in their 70's. Quite amazing. But none the less, it is still a health problem, so India is trying to reduce sickle cell mutation by encouraging planned marriages to take genitics into account.

[ Parent ]
nice observation (none / 0) (#68)
by relief on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 05:17:57 PM EST

but too late. it's already been done, referring to the racist AIDS cure.

----------------------------
If you're afraid of eating chicken wings with my dick cheese as a condiment, you're a wuss.
[ Parent ]
Explain? (none / 0) (#73)
by skyknight on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 06:01:03 PM EST

I'm not sure that I'm aware of the phenomenon of which you speak. Are you lamenting a genetic issue or an economic one?

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
genetical (none / 0) (#170)
by relief on Wed Apr 09, 2003 at 02:17:00 PM EST

i'm refering to the ''new aids cure'' that apparently only works for certain ethnic groups, namely black and asian people. it was in the news lately.

----------------------------
If you're afraid of eating chicken wings with my dick cheese as a condiment, you're a wuss.
[ Parent ]
Technical problem (one of them ...) diversity (4.57 / 7) (#51)
by bob6 on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 02:50:29 PM EST

I feel that this method underestimates the importance of the diversity of the vectors, as well as their geographic distribution. One percent of the mosquito population makes a lot of them. I have no idea of how much but it is certainly non-trivial since some of them live in areas difficult to reach (swamps etc.). And as far as we know there are almost 50 distinct vector species, and there are more to be discovered. This probably means 50 different HEGs (and all the research necessary to sequence each one).

In order to end malaria with this method, we have to eradicate all the 50 species, no exceptions allowed!

Then we may discover that the parasite evolved and now uses other vectors (read: more species)...

Cheers.
Aedes albopictus (4.50 / 2) (#103)
by jolly st nick on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 02:20:28 AM EST

Aedes albopictus, the Asian tiger mosquito, made its frist appearance in the mainland US in 1985; within six years it had spread to twenty six states. Even in Florida, it has become one of the major nuisance mosquitoes, and has even been able to displace the endemic yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti).

Granted, its habit of laying eggs in tires and machinery helped it hitch a ride around the country. However that is not my point. The point is the ability of mosquito populations to increase rapidly from a small population -- even a single female.

Anopheles can lay 150 or even more eggs per day; depending on temperature, some species are sexually mature in a little over a week.

So, suppose you manage to crash the population of Anopheles. Coincidentally you've wiped out your genetic bomb. Now suppose a single gravid (egg bearing) female survives. Depending on the species, she can lay between 30 and 300 eggs. Assuming that 50 females manage to mate from an average bunch of eggs, and conservatively a month per generation, in six months you have over fifteen billion mosquitoes infection free mosquitoes. In a year, this number is squared to an unfathomable number on the order of 10^20. And this assumes that females lay one bunch of eggs; provided with blood meals some Anopheles species can lay eggs every several days.

Of course what keeps Anopheles from taking over the world in a year or so is natural ecological checks. Even if virtually every Anopheles mosquito is destroyed, if a single uninfected one survives the population will within a very short time reach its pre-eradication, ecologically determined limit.

Basically, every mosquito "eradication" scheme has failed -- at least from the point of view that you are going to get rid of them all.

[ Parent ]

May not be that simple... (4.50 / 2) (#109)
by DonQuote on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 04:39:44 AM EST

While it's true that a population can spread rapidly, 'ecological checks' include competing species. Although there is a huge potential for growth, if Anopheles numbers are reduced, other mosquito species may take over their turf, reducing the possibility (or at least the rapidity) of any comeback by an Anopheles survivor.

Since any competing species have a larger breeding base, and are not clearly inferior in survivability to Anopheles (they haven't after all been out-competed to extinction in the last I-don't-know-how-many years), Anopheles will probably have a harder time making a comeback than you depict.

In the end though, we don't know what will happen. The potential for eradicating Anopheles is there; so is the possibility that once the HEGs do their job, we'll be back to square one. The scientists have their models, but without further real-word testing, we won't know if their assumptions are correct, or if they've missed something. So, we wait and see, and hope the world doesn't end in the meantime. :)

-DQé
... Use tasteful words. You may have to eat them.
[ Parent ]

Competing species (none / 0) (#117)
by jolly st nick on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 09:13:28 AM EST

Well, of course. You never can discount complexity in an ecological scenario (although this cuts both ways).

However -- if we are looking for a species that can rapidly fill the ecological niche left open by Anopheles, the most likely candidate is a mosquito species; and since mosquito species are not fungible, it is very likely to be Anopheeles.

Same thing happened when we tried to eradicate Anopheles using DDT, which is very effective. We never got it down to zero, and as soon as you stop they pretty much come right back in a matter of weeks.

[ Parent ]

Didn't we do something like this in Florida? (4.00 / 2) (#56)
by RofGilead on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 04:00:18 PM EST

In the United States, I think a large project of similar intentions was conducted in Florida in the past. I mean, we didn't use some super-awesome genetic engineered vector, but we killed off tons of mosquitos to control malaria. I think we just used poisons here...

-= RofGilead =-

---
Remember, you're unique, just like everyone else. -BlueOregon
US control. (4.75 / 4) (#116)
by SacredSalt on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 08:50:04 AM EST

In the United States, I think a large project of similar intentions was conducted in Florida in the past. I mean, we didn't use some super-awesome genetic engineered vector, but we killed off tons of mosquitos to control malaria. I think we just used poisons here...
The biggest factor in the US with containing the spread of diseases mosquitos carry is the windowscreen. Yes, the humble little screen to let air in and keep bugs out. Spraying and destroying habitat helps keep the populations of them in check, but it's the screen which reduces exposure in the most dramatic way. It's also a fairly effective way (and they use this in Africa, Australia, and parts of S America) to keep those who carry a blood born agent from being able to spread it to others. They put netting around them while they are infected. Often the netting is sprayed with, you guessed it, DDT.

[ Parent ]
Um... (4.42 / 7) (#57)
by trhurler on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 04:22:06 PM EST

Humanitarian causes ARE economic causes. All human causes are economic causes, foolish sentiment aside.

Also, I really don't care. The one thing that is reasonably certain is that things like this ARE GOING to be done by someone sooner or later. The only real question is who, and for what purpose? This purpose sounds better than most.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

US had malaria too (4.33 / 3) (#65)
by StephenThompson on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 05:00:38 PM EST

The US had malaria in the past.  Not just tropical climates either.  Seattle for example once had malaria.  They eradicated it by being aggressive about getting rid of mosquito habitat.

you cant really get rid of it... (4.00 / 1) (#70)
by Work on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 05:57:52 PM EST

not without draining the swamps, mowing down the jungle and what not and other such environmental disasters.

[ Parent ]
not really the habitat.... (4.25 / 4) (#107)
by Vellmont on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 04:23:29 AM EST

Accoring the Malaria Foundation International malaria was eliminated from the North America by screening programs in the 40s and 50s.  This means identifying people with malaria, and somehow preventing them from transmitting it to to others.  I'd imagine this means treatment, and quarantine of infected people.  

Malaria is a disease only present in human beings, so it's possible to eliminate year-to-year local transmission in this way.  I'd bet reducing the amount of mosquitos played a role in accomplishing that, but I'd also bet most of the success comes from identifying malaria carriers, and  treating them.

[ Parent ]

you know....I am always nervouse (2.00 / 6) (#67)
by modmans2ndcoming on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 05:14:02 PM EST

when we plan on Iradicating an entire species.

ther is some carnivor that eats those moskitos and some larger carnivor that eats them and some bug eats the dung of that spesific carnevor that then migrates to some other region and lays its eggs which are eaten by a bird that makes its nest in a part of the canopy where some mamal lives that eats that bird's eggs and on and on.

little species tend to have large impacts when they are removed from the ecosystem.

Now.. (1.00 / 2) (#76)
by Magnetic North on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 06:34:49 PM EST

if only we could eradict SARS.

How much is six percent of six billions?



--
<33333
Gee (none / 0) (#77)
by Magnetic North on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 06:37:44 PM EST

I should read the front page more carefully.

--
<33333
[ Parent ]
Bad news for African wildlife... (2.00 / 7) (#78)
by goonie on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 06:42:33 PM EST

As I understand it, one of the reasons that African wildlife can live relatively unmolested in some places is that malaria kills domestic livestock - hence the cattle herders can't live in those reasons. If you eradicated malaria, people would inevitably encroach on those areas, with drastic consequences for the environment in those areas.

Hmm. (5.00 / 4) (#89)
by Legato Bluesummers on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 08:22:39 PM EST

As I understand it, one of the reasons that African wildlife can live relatively unmolested in some places is that malaria kills domestic livestock - hence the cattle herders can't live in those reasons. If you eradicated malaria, people would inevitably encroach on those areas, with drastic consequences for the environment in those areas.

But malaria kills lots of people. Eliminating diseases such as malaria might be better for the environment in the long run. It would help allow for a more stable, economically prosperous society. The reason why the environmental conditions in the third world are bad is because everyone is too busy worrying about staying alive to give a flying fuck about the monkeys in the rain forest.

We find that so hard to understand in the first world, where we have the luxury of worrying about things like the environment. They don't.
--And many people have ended up looking very stupid, or dead, or both.
[ Parent ]

I agree [n/t] (none / 0) (#105)
by livus on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 03:50:27 AM EST



---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]
What is the value of human life ... (1.00 / 3) (#121)
by j1mmy on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 01:12:31 PM EST

... from the wildlife's perspective? I doubt they give a flying fuck about a stable economy.

[ Parent ]
So? (5.00 / 3) (#124)
by greenrd on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 02:41:49 PM EST

Who cares about the value of human life from the wildlife's perspective?


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

No. (none / 0) (#147)
by ti dave on Sun Apr 06, 2003 at 05:09:12 AM EST

You're thinking of "Sleeping Sickness", as carried by Tsetse flies.

Endorsed by the American Taliban Association
[ Parent ]

Extinction (4.62 / 8) (#80)
by godix on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 06:46:37 PM EST

To all who point out the 'web of life' theory as proof that eliminating one breed of mosquito will result in the entire ecological chain falling apart I'd like to point out one thing to you: you're wrong. The earth has seen literally millions of species die out and the ecological chain still exists. If you believe greenpeace and the like, we're eliminating species quicker than ever right now but the ecological chain still exists. When one entire species of animal is removed generally all that happens is that other species expand and fill in that niche. When one breed disappears but leaves others of that species, well, I doubt mother earth even notices.

I'm not saying we shouldn't think carefully before starting down the road to planned extinction, just that the 'web of life' arguement isn't one of the things we should be thinking about. It's a bullshit arguement. If anyone who wants to defend it they can start by showing proof of a sudden worldwide mass extinction of other species caused when the passenger pigeon went away.

Incidently, we already have a way to stop malaria. It's called DDT and it did a damned fine job in America. Malaria would have gone the way of polio except we've decided bird eggs are more important to have around than Africans.


"You think we're arrogant, and we think you're French."
- George Herbert Walker B

I for one do not mind at all if we eliminate (4.50 / 2) (#114)
by SacredSalt on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 08:39:28 AM EST

I don't mind at all if we eliminate ticks, and mosquitos. If we have a shot to eliminate both a vector of disease and a parasite that has plagued mankind since before we even had civilization -- it's a risk worth taking. I also don't mind if we go after that fly in S. America whose larvee burrow in peoples skin. (We already try to control them with some kind of radiation method). Bed bugs...Another wonderful target.. And I can think of quite a few other blood parasites that are wholly worthy candidates. All of this is far more selective than what we have tried in the past, and I can only see it as a good thing. ...And while we are down there... We could fix the water, treat the wastewater, and bring these folks into the global economy. Also a good thing and one that has a huge positive effect on disease. I long for the time when the days of ignoring the rest of the world are over, standards are raised in every country of the world, they are all locked together in commerce, diseases are kept in check, and we no longer have 1 billion starving, blind from river disease, incapacitated from other illness, or ravaged by AIDS, or living under despotic regimes. 2 out of every 7 people on earth live in the equivalent of hell. Another 2 out of that 7 live in close to it. It's good for public health, it's good for commerce, it's good for preventing terrorism, and it's good for people getting along. Something like this could be just the thing to get the so called civilized world out of it's isolationism and involved in a meaningful way to bridge that gap in the world.

[ Parent ]
Selah (3.00 / 2) (#126)
by Pihkal on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 03:16:17 PM EST

The "web-of-life" argument is not entirely without merit, just difficult to assess. It is true that many species have been killed before, and so far the world seems to be holding up alright. The real problem with global/environmental/ecosystem studies is that what we don't know dwarfs what we do. As a result, both sides of an argument have a lot of valid points to use. However, the cautious approach recognizes that we lack the data to really understand all the consequences, and thus, should not rush into anything.

The counterargument for the "web-of-life" is that, although it appears that nature is adaptable to any strain we place on it, we don't know what the limit is. An ecosystem may be able to handle stress only up to a threshold before it goes rapidly downhill. The threshold would probably be some minimum number of required species in an area, or species per niche, or species killed per unit time or something along those lines. One fallacy is talking about any change as an instant doomsday scenario, since the odds are against any one particular species being "the straw that broke the camel's back". The opposite fallacy is assuming that since we haven't seen the threshold yet that it definitely does not exist, which is the one you seem to be making. Other species may fulfill empty niches, but that takes time and the species that took over may not be a perfect substitute. One cannot assume that everything will go back to normal all the time, in all cases.



"I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered!"
-- Number 6
[ Parent ]
I was quite specific in my comment (5.00 / 2) (#136)
by godix on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 07:35:25 PM EST

I'm not refering to the web of life idea in general and I'm not refering to the possibility of limited damage to other species. I was refering to the people who were making claims that eliminating species will result in an ecological disaster. I'm don't argue with the 'web of life' theory itself, the general idea of it seems fairly obvious to me. I was arguing about some peoples interpretation of the 'web of life'. I would have made this a reply to those specific people, but after reading a dozen different comments like it I decided it was much simpler to do my own comment instead of replying to each person.

The real problem with global/environmental/ecosystem studies is that what we don't know dwarfs what we do.

Quite true. As I said, there are other reasons to think carefully before we start intentionally eliminating species, and this is one of them.

The counterargument for the "web-of-life" is that, although it appears that nature is adaptable to any strain we place on it, we don't know what the limit is.

At the very least the limit is higher than the ecological damage of a massive meteor strike or the entire atmosphere turning into a toxic gas. Earth lost dinosaurs and whatever couldn't breath oxygen in it's past but life still survived.

The opposite fallacy is assuming that since we haven't seen the threshold yet that it definitely does not exist, which is the one you seem to be making.

Oh I do think there are limits. I just think they are far, far broader than people suppose. I believe life would survive pretty much anything short of the Earth being destoryed or knocked out of the belt of life (the range of distance from the sun capable of supporting life based on liquid water, generally thought to be between a little closer than Earths orbit out to somewhere around Mars orbit).

One cannot assume that everything will go back to normal all the time, in all cases.

I do not assume the ecosystem will go to noraml because the definition of 'normal' changes constantly. At one point methane breathing creatures were normal. At another multi-ton lizards were normal. Right now oxygen breathing mammals are pretty normal. The problem with most people making ecological arguements is that they want everything to stay the same, but that just isn't going to happen. Instead a much better idea would be to ensure that any changes are done to our benefit instead of our extinction. This article is about one way we can make sure those changes are positive for us, but we need lots of research to make sure.


"You think we're arrogant, and we think you're French."
- George Herbert Walker B
[
Parent ]

Snared in the web of life... (none / 0) (#177)
by Pihkal on Fri Apr 11, 2003 at 06:55:46 PM EST

I think I see the difference now. You're referring to all life, in general, when you place your thresholds whereas most of us are starting with the preservation of humanity as a bare minimum. Well, call me selfish, but I'm kind of rooting for my species. :D They're my favorite species to have sex with, and I enjoy talking (and arguing) with some of them. I'd miss them if they were gone.

"I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered!"
-- Number 6
[ Parent ]
god you are a stupid fuck (1.00 / 5) (#130)
by turmeric on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 04:00:36 PM EST

people like you are the problem.

we know the 'web of life' is important because we have seen it happen dozens of times. go look at iGrrls post, above, for an example. which you are probably too stupid to understand.

the thing i find most amusing about fucktards like yourself is that you claim to be 'upholding science', and yet you reject the most basic principles of science, like observing what has happened in the past.

please go rot in hell

[ Parent ]

Simple question (5.00 / 2) (#138)
by godix on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 07:52:46 PM EST

How many other species went extinct when the passenger pigeon was killed off? For that matter, show me ANY mass extinctions anywhere on earth at anytime in history that were directly caused by a single species becoming extinct. Please share with us your observations of what has happened in the past, or are you just another fucktard claiming to 'uphold science' who rejects the most basic principles of it?


"You think we're arrogant, and we think you're French."
- George Herbert Walker B
[
Parent ]
mass extinction is irrelevant (1.00 / 2) (#142)
by turmeric on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 09:06:28 PM EST

im talking about massive social upheavel due to a fucked up ecosystem, and problems that become worse than the original problem you were trying to solve in the first place.

[ Parent ]
Fine, show that then (5.00 / 2) (#144)
by godix on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 10:44:07 PM EST

Provide proof that the social upheavel when the passenger pigeon, dodo, etc. died is worse than the social upheavel caused by millions of malaria deaths per year. That better be some damned horrible social upheavel, even the current Iraq mess doesn't come close to millions dead.


"You think we're arrogant, and we think you're French."
- George Herbert Walker B
[
Parent ]
see igrrl's post, idiot (1.50 / 2) (#153)
by turmeric on Sun Apr 06, 2003 at 11:36:51 AM EST

see any major disease in history. . . smallpox, anthrax, plague, flu, all are related to animals that have close contact with humans, which means you have to be careful when you are screwing around with this stuff.

at they very least you try your little experiment in a small place so you dont wipe out the whole planet in the name of your utopian vision.

[ Parent ]

Mimic (1.75 / 4) (#84)
by meehawl on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 07:17:44 PM EST

Obviously too few people have seen Mimic.
Three years ago entomologist Dr. Susan Tyler genetically created an insect to kill cockroaches carrying a virulent disease, now the insects are out to destroy their only predator, mankind!


Mike Rogers www.meehawl.com
Who was Fred Sopar? (4.00 / 1) (#92)
by RobotSlave on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 09:07:00 PM EST

And what can his remarkable story tell us today?

He gives us a lot to think about; one of the more interesting details for me was the distinction between eradicating malaria and eradicating an entire genus which serves as that disease's vector.

Even if we decide to target the vector rather than the disease itself, Fred Sopar's work suggests that total extermination of Anopheles is not necessary, if what we are trying to do is stop the transmission of malaria to humans.

What about this alternative? (4.66 / 6) (#94)
by Eccles on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 09:40:57 PM EST

See this.

My bad (4.00 / 1) (#111)
by twistedfirestarter on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 05:03:06 AM EST

I knew about that (GM mosquitos) and I was going to put a paragraph in about it, but I forgot.

[ Parent ]
Here in the Carolinas, something like this.. (2.50 / 2) (#95)
by mmsmatt on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 10:23:40 PM EST

We took more of a "shotgun" approach, in contrast this method would be "precision". After Hurricane Floyd, when my area of this region became a lake, the mosquitoes started to swarm in plague-of-Moses like numbers, it seemed. We basically called in airstrikes, spraying all the woodland and marsh areas to kill mosquitos. Worked pretty well.

Killing the Messenger... (3.00 / 4) (#112)
by opendna on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 06:46:45 AM EST

I was under the impression that malaria was caused by a bacteria that was carried by little winged biting insects.

If that is the case, why are we going to use a complicated genetic attack up the evolutionary ladder? Why wipe out a genus of insects (which may or may not be important) and not the bacteria which, by all indications, acts as a parasite on all hosts?

Do you hear me? Dr. Such-and-Such wants to kill the messenger because they bite him, but not the agent though it makes him sick.

I would expect rogue mutations of the disease agent to adapt to other insect vectors. Let loose a virus instead.

Or not.



Corrections. (5.00 / 4) (#113)
by faecal on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 07:19:51 AM EST

It's not a bacteria. It's a parasitic organism, a plasmodium (Plasmodium Vivax, IIRC). Although it acts as a parasite on more than one species, it's only in the type of mosquito that it can reproduce.

[ Parent ]
They are exploiting Sexual Reproduction (5.00 / 2) (#115)
by HidingMyName on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 08:42:55 AM EST

In biological systems, organisms that undergo sexual reproduction typically take genetic material from both parents and recombine it (frequently using diploid genes, where each parent contributes 1/2 of a pair for each gene). Because the mosquito is the disease vector, and the number of offspring of each mated pair is large (albeit with a small survival rate), the mutated genetic material is likely to propagate rapidly The plasmodium responsible for malaria is asexual, so releasing some plasmodium with mutated material will have a harder time spreading (it will only spread if it wins the "natural selection" competition for resources).

[ Parent ]
but you could just inject the person with a (none / 0) (#129)
by modmans2ndcoming on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 03:33:25 PM EST

virus that attacks the plasmodium and injects a modified gene that will kill the plasmodium.

or, you could modifiy the mosquito so that it can not be a viable carrier for the plasmodium and that can spread through the population, will not effect the mosquito in such a way that it will evolve beyond the modification to allow the plasmodium back.

you do that and you eradicate malaria while maintaining the ecosystem.

[ Parent ]

Not every genetic modification is equally easy (4.50 / 2) (#134)
by HidingMyName on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 06:23:37 PM EST

And some genetic modifications have undesired side effects, in fact the vast majority of mutations render the mutant much less fit during the selection proces of evolution (recall selection reduces genetic diversity while mutation and sexual recombination induce genetic diversity). Some gene modifications may be harder to find (they have a large search space) or impossible (they lie outside the space of viable compounds generated using molecular biology).

Gene therapy on people to make them resistant to an infectious agent is likely to require extensive modification of their molecular biology, which is likely to have unintended and undesirable consequences (e.g. nonviable DNA). Genetic engineering on the Mosquito to make them non carriers is also likely to be extremely difficult.

[ Parent ]

well, if it is that dangerous (none / 0) (#141)
by modmans2ndcoming on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 08:54:39 PM EST

then mosquito experimentation would be better

[ Parent ]
Improving the messenger (3.50 / 2) (#156)
by hey on Sun Apr 06, 2003 at 06:00:13 PM EST

I assume the parasite in the mosquito causes it a bit of harm. If a genetic mod could be developed that helped the mosquito fight the bacteria it would be good for the mosquito. Individuals with the mod would be more likely to reproduce. This would help spread the mod...which would be good for humans.

[ Parent ]
Culcidae (4.00 / 5) (#119)
by jolly st nick on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 09:32:05 AM EST

To wipe out Anopheles would still leave other Culicidae species to fill any empty ecological niches.

While it is true Culcidae contains many members, it is also extremely diverse. From a uninformed perspective, mosquitoes are a rather uniform -- annoying biting insects. However not every species bites humans for example. Different species have different reproductive strategies. Some lay their eggs in open water, others in tiny cavities in vegetation or tree holes, some in flood plains, some on emergent vegetation (to be hatched at high water or when the plant dies). Some species live a brief life cycle driven by snow melt; others are cyclic throughout the year; others are continuous breeders. Some feed exlusively on birds, others mammmals, other anything that they can draw blood from. Some are active during the day, some at night, some mainly at dawn or dusk. Some are more strongly attracted by CO2, some or more phototropic. Some woodland species will not fly across a path because they avoid light, others will bite in the bright of the day. Some species are tiny, others (Psorophora) are practically as large as small hummingbird.

An assumption that a different mosquito species will occupy exactly the same ecological niche as a specific Anopheles species is like assuming that if you remove elephants from the Okovango some other mammal will displace it because mamamals are so diverse. However a squirrel is not going to evolve into a elephant analog any time soon, although it might in the long term.

It is true that the most likely other genera to replace Anopheles would be another kind of mosquito, it is more likely that the genus will simply reemerge from small pockets of survivors to reoccupy its entire former range. This is what has historically happened at other eradication attempts have repeatedly shown. DDT is very effective at killing mosquitoes. However, there is no physical means to ensure that every gravid female is destroyed.

could you just simply (none / 0) (#128)
by modmans2ndcoming on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 03:28:04 PM EST

release a large group of modifired males every so often, bases on the range of a female
that way you cover every inch of terriroty and given 12 generations needed to eradicate the species you have a high probability of total eradication, you can aid this by also eradicating the habitat tehy use to reproduce in after the 36 weeks.

[ Parent ]
But - (4.50 / 2) (#135)
by Souhait on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 07:25:30 PM EST

Elephants are on one end of the evolutionary/adaptive scale, mosquitoes are on the other. The ratio of insect species compared to elephant species is enormous. Also, an elephant generation is much longer than a mosquito generation (years compared to weeks.) If we took out a single species of mosquito, it would not be nearly as difficult for other mosquitos to adapt to fill the gap, compared with the elimination of a species of elephant. I'd say it's orders of magnitude different, although it sounds like neither of us really knows the specific science behind all of this.

[ Parent ]
How quickly? Would the replacement be better? (none / 0) (#154)
by jolly st nick on Sun Apr 06, 2003 at 03:30:06 PM EST

It would certainly be easier for a mosquito species to adapt to an ecological niche than a mammalian species. However, unless you work with in some mosquito related field, you probably have no idea just how different one mosquito species is from another - much less one genus from another.

The fact is that there would have to be a sequence of plausible mutations that would allow one mosquito genus to replace another. It would be hard to imagine a floodwater species like Aedes vexans evolving any time soon to lay its eggs in water.

The argument is that we don't have to think about ecological change, because other species are either already close enough analogs, or would be able to become close analogs fast enough that there would be no practical effect. This argument is simly made from ignorance of just how different one genus of mosquito is from another. While this would happen eventually, very clearly this would take not dozens, not hundreds, but at the very least tens of thousands of generations.

In any case the genus that is probably closest to Anopheles would be Culex. Mosquitoes in this genus are themselves implicated in a number of disease cycles that are currently public health concerns, but not currently as important as malaria. It is not out of the question that one, or perhaps multiple of these diseases could rise to the level of concern that Malaria now causes.

Personally, I think that a weakened Anopheles with reduced exposure to humans would be the best way to reduce malaria. This means mosquito control programs, screens on windows, bed netting, repellants, and integrated pest management approaches like controlling habitat around human dwellings.

[ Parent ]

Not so! (1.71 / 7) (#120)
by CAIMLAS on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 11:30:07 AM EST

There may also be unknown roles played by mosquitos in the ecology. (emphasis mine)

This is simply not true. There will be an effect, just as any other small ecological change produces an effect. Systems of ecology are just as gloabally effecting as weather systems - you change something locally and, eventually, the effect will be global (even if potentially minute).

Additionally, you speak of malaria as if it were a bad thing. It isn't. It keeps the population in areas of poor water quality at a mininum. These areas wouldn't be able to support the level of life (or quality) of the US or any western country. I'm reminded of Asimov's Robot series, where the Spacers limitted their population because they didn't want to tax the world as Earth had been. That applies here - if every populace of the world were growing, mass famine, plague, and death would cover the world within a matter of years. Food supply aside - there isn't enough clean water.

Additionally, malaria helps weed back weaker animals and people in areas where there is not a ready supply of prey or crops. Without malaria, these areas would die off due to famine within a human generation, completely devistating the ecological balance instead of simply keeping life at a mininum and fairly balanced medium (albeit it's still often a struggle to survive and produce food).
--

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.

Doesn't that cut both ways? (5.00 / 3) (#123)
by greenrd on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 02:35:56 PM EST

you speak of malaria as if it were a bad thing. It isn't. It keeps the population in areas of poor water quality at a mininum. These areas wouldn't be able to support the level of life (or quality) of the US or any western country.

Let me turn that around: "You speak of poor water quality as a bad thing. It isn't. It keeps the population in areas of malaria at a minimum. These areas wouldn't be able to support the level of life of the US or any western country."

Shall we therefore stop all efforts to increase water quality, since bad water quality is not a bad thing?


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

No (1.00 / 1) (#127)
by CAIMLAS on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 03:25:57 PM EST

Improving water quality, in the sense of better filtration, more pipes to remote areas, and other things of that sort, are not what I'm talking about.

I'm talking about entire regions (like, well, most of non-tropical Africa) that have very limitted water supply and are overpopulated, where the water supply available is of poor quality and quantity (not significant enough for filtration). Small mudholes that have a half a foot of semi-placid water. Vast swamps (as in the case of south america and the SE US).
--

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.
[ Parent ]

No, your assertion is incorrect (5.00 / 3) (#140)
by RyoCokey on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 08:43:02 PM EST

There will be an effect, just as any other small ecological change produces an effect. Systems of ecology are just as gloabally effecting as weather systems - you change something locally and, eventually, the effect will be global (even if potentially minute).

This is only true as time goes to infinity. It is not, in practice, true. If it was in fact true, we would have a globally stabilized uniform (varying by temperature/weather) ecology. Instead, we still have many areas where ideal (from an evolutionary standpoint) species are not present. The fire ant was only recently introduced to the US, wiping out weaker species. The yellow crazy ant is being contained in Australia. Obviously, the world is not in a global ecological equilibrium. Isolation still exists, as seen in Australia and just about all countries where weaker native species still exist.

Therefore, the extinction of a species on one continent does not necessarily have any effect on the species elsewhere. This has been a constant ever since Pangea separated.



"Some things do not change. The best way to shock and awe an enemy is still to kill him." - Ralph Peters
[ Parent ]
so which is more important the animals or us? (5.00 / 2) (#159)
by m a r c on Mon Apr 07, 2003 at 03:00:44 AM EST

If you take that stance then you can argue that we shouldn't complain when we are also dying of disease as its just survival of the fittest. I believe that humans are more important than nature (arrogant as it is), so yeah, wipe out the mosquitos if it is in our best interest. I don't think that humans are compatible with nature anyway, come on I'm sitting in a man made building typing on a computer.. how removed is that. What part of ourselves do we define as being the human part and exactly how does that fit in with nature anyway.
I got a dog and named him "Stay". Now, I go "Come here, Stay!". After a while, the dog went insane and wouldn't move at all.
[ Parent ]
Wow (none / 0) (#181)
by goofrider on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 01:45:21 PM EST

<quote>

Additionally, you speak of malaria as if it were a bad thing. It isn't. It keeps the population in areas of poor water quality at a mininum. These areas wouldn't be able to support the level of life (or quality) of the US or any western country.

</quote>

How do u say something like that with a straight face?

You're essential saying that these people do not deserve to be rid of the risk to a horrid disease because of the lack of quaility of life in these regions.

Your indifference amuses me.

[ Parent ]

Wiping out mosquitoes has been tried before. (4.00 / 5) (#122)
by iGrrrl on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 01:59:57 PM EST

In the 1950s (iirc), the World Health Organization wanted to wipe out malaria in Borneo. They sprayed liberally with DDT to kill the mosquitoes. The DDT also killed a parasitic wasp that laid its eggs in the caterpillar that ate the thatch used for roofing. Without a predator, the caterpillar population grew, they ate their natural food, and the people's roofs fell. The WHO replaced the thatch with tin roofs, and so all seemed well until the locals began to get typhoid and sylvatic plague.

It happened like this:

  • Lizards ate the bugs laced with DDT.
  • Cats ate the lizards and were killed by the pesticide.
  • Without a predator, the rat population grew, and the diseases spread.

    That's right, the plague, brought to you by the World Health Organization.

    In order to get the rat population back in check, cartons of stray cats were dropped into Borneo by parachute.

    In this case, the aquatic larvae of mosquitoes are an important food source for many fish. We might not be able to fix that kind of food chain problem by something as droll as parachuting cats.

    --
    You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
    remove apostrophe for email.

  • you stupid liberal (1.00 / 6) (#131)
    by turmeric on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 04:02:18 PM EST

    actually it was communists and animal rights activists that caused the plague. those rats could have bee KILLED AND EATEN if not for the birkenstock wearing vegan morons from california who thought it was their business to tell the people of borneo how to live in a workers socialist paradise. nice try to dodge a bullet for the enviro-nazis of the world, but it just wont work. we at k5 have BRAINS and can read between the lines of your lies and deceit.

    [ Parent ]
    Quick questions (4.00 / 2) (#137)
    by godix on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 07:48:23 PM EST

    You provide a good example of why we should question and study the potential results before starting, but if you meant to say we should oppose this because of your example I have a few questions. How well did it do at reducing or eliminating malaria? Did the plague result in more deaths than malaria would have if we did nothing? Since this new idea wouldn't directly damage other species like the 'ddt to lizard, lizard to cat' example you provide, would using this new method still result in the plague?



    "You think we're arrogant, and we think you're French."
    - George Herbert Walker B
    [
    Parent ]
    unforeseen system dynamics are the issue (none / 0) (#165)
    by iGrrrl on Tue Apr 08, 2003 at 08:29:56 AM EST

    Since this new idea wouldn't directly damage other species like the 'ddt to lizard, lizard to cat' example you provide, would using this new method still result in the plague?

    The point is, we don't know. The WHO officials in the 1950's had no idea about the parasitic wasp keeping the caterpillars in check, much less the chain from lizards eating poison bugs, cats eating poison lizards, etc. What we don't know are links in the food chain from larvae on up, much less other unintended consequences.

    I'm not saying that we shouldn't fight malaria. I am saying that this kind of ecosystem manipulation -- very few living things are isolated enough not to affect system dynamics -- is unpredictable and potentially hazardous. That means, imo: 1) get the ecologists (scientific, not tree-hugging) to study the system, and 2) proceed with caution, based upon their advice.

    In general, I'm not against genetically modifying organisms for our (human's) benefit. We've been doing that since we started selective breeding of domesticated animals. I do, however, know enough about biology to want scientists and policy makers to be judicious in their choices.

    --
    You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
    remove apostrophe for email.
    [ Parent ]

    Mutations? (3.33 / 3) (#125)
    by Anonymous Hiro on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 03:02:29 PM EST

    Have they factored in mutations?

    There are a LOT of mosquitoes out there.

    Isolated mosquitoes may die out before reaching other mosquitoes to pass the genes.

    If I had to make a bet, I'd bet on the mosquito.

    Sure they say they can always come up with other genes. Hmm, nice way to get funding eh?

    Bed netting won't help that much (4.66 / 3) (#143)
    by adrianb on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 10:18:19 PM EST

    I live in the Dominican Republic, and am unable to sleep unless I use a mosquito net. The local mosquitos seem to like me. :-)

    However even with the mosquito net, I do get bitten repeatedly during the day, and unfortunately they sometimes sneak into my mosquito net at night. Being bitten wakes me up and I have to then get them out.

    While a mosquito net will cut down on the bites, it definitely won't eliminate being bitten by malaria carrying mosquitos. I don't think its a very good solution.

    My Hispaniolan adventure... (none / 0) (#148)
    by ti dave on Sun Apr 06, 2003 at 05:19:46 AM EST

    I remember my evening mosquito-killing ritual, spending about 20 minutes trying to kill each netting infiltrator, before I fell asleep.

    When they bite, you *will* wake up!

    Endorsed by the American Taliban Association
    [ Parent ]

    Scroll of genocide? (2.00 / 2) (#145)
    by arthurpsmith on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 11:27:26 PM EST

    Is anybody else reminded of genociding monsters in nethack? Always get rid of those annoying little xans first - they kind of remind me of mosquitos... Rust monsters next. Hmmm, must have played that game too much years ago...

    Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.


    Factual error in your story... (5.00 / 2) (#149)
    by ti dave on Sun Apr 06, 2003 at 05:35:31 AM EST

    Humans have made hundreds species on the planet extinct but in every case it was accidental, not a planned eradication.

    Exhibit A: Thylacinus cynocephalus
    Exhibit B: Ectopistes migratorius
    Exhibits C, D, and E: Panthera tigris virgata, Panthera tigris balica and Panthera tigris sondaica

    Yes, these were quite intentional and sadly, this list could probably be lengthened.

    Endorsed by the American Taliban Association

    Re: Factual error in your story... (none / 0) (#157)
    by Zaak on Sun Apr 06, 2003 at 06:01:28 PM EST

    these were quite intentional

    I agree that the killing of a large number of individual animals was intentional. However, I have two questions: Did the people who put the bounties on these animal species understand that intentional extinction was possible? And if so, was that their intent?

    This article discusses what seems to me a qualitatively different proposal from previous human-caused extinctions. Not the intentional reduction of a species (with extinction being an unintended consequence), but the intentional complete eradication of all members of that species.

    TTFN

    [ Parent ]

    Yes, they did. (none / 0) (#158)
    by ti dave on Sun Apr 06, 2003 at 06:11:27 PM EST

    Particularly in the cases of the carnivores.
    They had bounties placed upon them so that they would no longer constitute a "threat" to agriculture and human safety.

    Even the Passenger Pigeons "earned" their Death Sentence, since they were deemed a treat to the growing of crops.

    Particularly, in the case of the Tasmanian Wolf, all wild specimens were to be eradicated.
    Zoo specimens were tolerated, as they weren't considered a threat to livestock, but the Tasmanians surely knew that zoo specimens wouldn't last forever.

    Endorsed by the American Taliban Association
    [ Parent ]

    caspian tiger (5.00 / 1) (#169)
    by asad on Tue Apr 08, 2003 at 05:20:42 PM EST

    about 30 years ago my dad worked in the Iranian version of the park rangers, part of his job was to go out and discover if there were any caspian tigers left. The running joke with my mom is that if he didn't come back from one of his trips then we would know that the tigers were still alive. Unfortunatly he never found any trace of the caspian tiger.

    [ Parent ]
    Why kill the bearer of the parasite? (3.00 / 3) (#152)
    by Gorgonzola on Sun Apr 06, 2003 at 11:28:50 AM EST

    I think proposing to eradicate a species because it bears a certain parasite is ludicrous. It makes a lot more sense to use a similar genetic attack on the parasite itself. Not to mention the fact that eradicating the marlaria mosquitos could very well put enough environmental strain on the parasite to mutate into a version that uses other mosquito species as a carrier.
    --
    A page a day keeps ignorance of our cultural past away, or you can do your bit for collaborative media even if you haven't anything new or insightful to say.

    You have to look at the life cycle. (5.00 / 1) (#166)
    by jolly st nick on Tue Apr 08, 2003 at 09:04:18 AM EST

    While plasmodium does reproduce sexually, it does this inside an infected mosquito. It has a complex life cycle which requires access to both humans and mosquitoes. This presents a number of problems, not the least of which is the only way to inject our genetic bomb into the environment is to release infected mosquitoes and hope they infect lots of people.

    [ Parent ]
    But (none / 0) (#168)
    by Gorgonzola on Tue Apr 08, 2003 at 04:11:24 PM EST

    What kind of difference does that make? Take on the plasmodium I'd say or change the mosquitos in such a way that the plasmodium can't reproduce anymore inside the mosquitos.
    --
    A page a day keeps ignorance of our cultural past away, or you can do your bit for collaborative media even if you haven't anything new or insightful to say.

    [ Parent ]
    Because (none / 0) (#172)
    by jolly st nick on Wed Apr 09, 2003 at 03:54:27 PM EST

    Because you have no path to spread your engineered genes in the plasmodium gene pool except by promoting human infections.

    Changing the mosquitoes so they could not amplify plasmodium would be a good idea, except nobody knows how to do it.

    [ Parent ]

    malaria (5.00 / 2) (#163)
    by kpeerless on Tue Apr 08, 2003 at 01:27:18 AM EST

    I lived in the tropics for many years and have had two seperate infections of malaria, both contracted in Palawan in the Philippines, and both cerebral malaria. The first sucumbed to medication but the second was resistant to modern drugs. It did finally quit after massive doses of quinine administered in the course of a number of attacks but which destroyed my audio nerves and has left me pretty much deaf except for a goddam constant ringing in my ears. I have had strep throat before the invention of antibiotics, and typhoid fever. Also 3 heart attacks and a quadruple bypass. Nothing has come closer to killing me than Malaria. It is an ugly disease.

    Cerebral malaria causes a kind of viscious insanity complete with halucinations in its early stage which makes you want to kill people. In SE ASia it is called "running amok". Interestingly the name for the mosquito is "lamok". The disease finally drove me back to Canada after my temperature slipped off the thermometer at 106+ in my next to last attack.

    Kill the bloody mosquitoes. Save lives. Never mind all the inane bullshit. It is a truly terrifying disease that may kill you and/or cause you to kill some innocent... perhaps your own child.

    How ignorant. (none / 0) (#171)
    by kurotruth on Wed Apr 09, 2003 at 03:04:15 PM EST

    "Kill the bloody mosquitoes. Save lives. Never mind all the inane bullshit. It is a truly terrifying disease that may kill you and/or cause you to kill some innocent... perhaps your own child."

    So you are very susceptible to mosquitoes. I have news for you: Life isn't always comfortable. Deal with it.

    As someone who has had malaria over a dozen times without permanent side effect, and knowing fully well how intricately delicate the environment is, your proposed solution to wipe out the entire mosquito species strikes me as overly simplistic and remarkably ignorant.

    [ Parent ]
    Hey I'm all for killing mosquitoes (none / 0) (#174)
    by Anonymous Hiro on Thu Apr 10, 2003 at 01:47:13 AM EST

    I'm living in the SE asia, and I've very little sympathy for mosquitoes (particularly the disease bearing ones). Plenty of diseases dengue, malaria, yellow fever etc. Even the dogs won't miss not getting heartworm.

    In many countries mosquitoes were pretty much wiped out due to DDT and things were fine. AFAIK the problems with ecosystems were mainly because of the DDT and not the mosquitoes being missing.

    Sure DDT is bad, but the diseases are worse. And mosquitoes don't obey quarantines, so they're a risk for many blood borne diseases (current or future).

    Thing is I'm not sure the gene method proposed is going to work well if at all. Billions of mosquitoes, short life cycle, mass reproduction.

    [ Parent ]

    ignorant (5.00 / 1) (#175)
    by kpeerless on Thu Apr 10, 2003 at 03:25:27 AM EST

    There are 4 kinds of malaria... Falciparum, Malariae, Vivaxi and I think Oblate. The last three are like the flu of various strengths, but Falciparum is deadly and has many resistant strains. Its the one that can eventually lead to Blackwater Fever. If you had ever had it you would not throw "ignorant" around so casually.No one I know who has had it is not scared shitless of it. I used to think of it as "The Beast" when my temp would begin to rise. It kills millions of people every year, most of them kids. Two of my children almost died of it. It eats up your liver, the lining of your veins and arteries and then your brain. If that doesn't kill you then the rubbish it generates pugs up your kidneys causing your urine to turn black just before you die. Hence Blackwater Fever.

    This has nothing to do with discomfort. I could care less about ordinary mosquitoes, having lived in northern British Columbia for years where the mosquito population makes the tropical population look paltry. This has to do with saving lives. Millions of them annually. Falciparum (cerebral) malaria is a whole different illness than the others. Fuck ignorant. You should try it before you run your mouth about it.

    I've just got malaria.. (none / 0) (#176)
    by kejace on Thu Apr 10, 2003 at 05:31:32 AM EST

    I'm in India right now and I got malaria in Rajasthan. The fever didn't get so high until I got medicine (chloroquine) wich I have taken for 48hrs now. I'm feeling practicly healed now but since I don't know so muchabout the disease I'd like some help from you who have had it. Is it possible that it will come back? When I come back to Sweden in 4 weeks should I go to a doctor? Is there anythong else I should do before I get home? If you know any good recourses on the internet please give me some links. thanks

    The end of malaria in sight? | 180 comments (167 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
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