Sunday, 28 February 2016

allele, alelo or progressive trait

While neither condemning nor condoning the practise of tinkering with genetics, the science desk of Buzzfeed (ironically, as it is the males who buzz and annoy but only the silent females that bite and suck blood) presents a really solidly comprehensive article that at least exculpates and explains the methodologies from a community health standpoint behind releasing hundreds of thousands of genetically-compromised males into the wild breeding population to keep it under control. The problematic mosquito that is the vector of dread disease in Brazil and is spreading to neighbouring regions is an invasive species—an import from the Nile region—and although very much still a scourge in its native habitat, the humans, living lived with them for generations, are less prone to outbreaks.
Getting rid of this unwelcome invaded might allow indigenous insect populations to return and bring further natural regulation to the ecology. It is unlikely there’s any correlation between the trials, conducted in 2012 and the present emergence of viral infections—due to time and distance with the incubation period of the Zika virus and the other diseases it transmits being mere weeks. The surge in cases most likely indicates that the testing produced victims of its own success, in much the same way as a concerted campaign in South America to eradicate disease-carrying mosquitoes decades earlier worked just well enough to shove off public notice and eventually caused a relapse. What strikes me as really surprising, however (and again, the mutated males could not spread the virus as they don’t bite), is that the male mosquitoes are not engineered to have woefully short life-spans in a straightforward manner: the mutants, programmed to self-destruct, will live out their normal adult lives provided they are given an antidote, an antibiotic, once every four days. Outside of the laboratory, this substance cannot be found and after mating, the males die and pass along this trait to their offspring. Maybe it was that little detour for sterilisation management gives the conspiracy-theorists ample purchase.