As part of the experiment, the population of one of the most invasive mosquito species has been exterminated on two Chinese islands in Guangdong Province. Is it a step towards living without painful bites?
The experiment successfully reduced the population of Asian tiger mosquitoes by 94%, reducing the number of human bites by 97%. Interestingly, this was not the first attempt to reduce the mosquito population in the world, because in 2018 researchers from Imperial College London, a public university specializing in research and education in science, engineering and medicine, resorted to genetic engineering to sterilize female mosquitoes.
The research is conducted by a very experienced Chinese scientist, Xi Zhiyong, a professor at Michigan State University and a long-time pioneer of work on this issue. In southern China it even has a special mosquito factory, where it has previously tried to use sterilized mosquitoes to regulate the population of these insects, because, as he claimed: – We create good mosquitoes to help us fight the bad ones. In his latest attempt, however, he went a step further and decided on a huge reduction in the population size of the mosquito, by impairing their reproductive capacity.
Females were sterilized by low doses of radiation, and males by Wolbachia bacteria, and then released into the wild during the peak of the breeding season in 2016 and 2017 on two islands near the city of Guangzhou. The results turned out to be impressive, because the females disappeared almost completely, and according to Peter Armbruster, an ecologist dealing with this topic, is the most effective attempt in history to reduce the amount of tiger mosquitoes that are famous for their incredible survival.
Practically they do not react at all to conventional methods of controlling their quantity, such as pesticides or removing standing water, in which they could lay eggs and at the same time they are very invasive. Over the past 40 years, they have managed to hit Asia from virtually every continent, and it must be remembered that their presence causes not only unpleasant bites, but also carries a serious health risk, because they carry many deadly diseases, such as malaria and dengue .
It should be noted that during the outbreak of dengue in 2014, almost 38 thousand cases were documented in the Canton itself, and this year a special alert was announced in the Philippines because in the first half of this year the virus already killed over 450 people. And the worst of all is that there is no effective vaccine for most mosquito-borne diseases, so controlling their numbers is simply necessary here, even if they also have important goals to fulfill, such as filtering water bodies by their larvae.