Monday, April 11, 2016

Are "Frankenstein Mosquitoes" The Solution To Zika Pandemic?

by JASmius

Captain Buzz is picking up speed:

The spread and impact of the Zika virus is wider than initially anticipated and the first vaccine candidate for the virus should be available in September, U.S. health officials said on Monday.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, a deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters the type of mosquito in which the virus is carried is present in more U.S. States than initially thought. She said what authorities are learning about the virus is "scarier than we initially thought."

That isn't all that surprising.  The more one finds out about this kind of thing, the worse it typically is discovered to be.  If I were the CDC, I would err on the side of caution as a matter of course.

But is it possible to overreact in that direction?  As we've discussed here before, possibly:

A British biotech firm believes the spread the Zika virus can stopped with the production of genetically modified male mosquitoes — but environmentalists say the idea could have serious consequences.

Oxitec says the modified insects would be programmed to produce offspring that die before they reach adulthood — eventually ending the growing flu-like illness that appears linked to birth defects and paralysis, the Washington Times reports.

The question, in reality, is one of unforeseen consequences versus the known consequences of doing essentially nothing.  Like I wrote a month ago, this sounds like the prelude to every plague outbreak movie and TV episode I've ever seen, but if the "Frankenstein mosquito" could neutralize Zika, that would presumably be a good thing, wouldn't it?  In short, you can only make decisions based on the best available information, on knowns, not hypothetical unknowns.  Be as careful and prudent as possible, but sometimes something has to be done to address a very known threat.

The aforementioned environmentalists didn't come up with much of a counter-argument:

Oxitec wants to test the plan in Key Haven, Florida, a resort community along the southern tip of the Sunshine State. But residents there worry the release of artificially created insects could harm the environment and spook tourists. They have started a petition to stop the experiment.

It would help their case if they could come up with one or more plausible specifics on how the "Frankenstein mosquito" might "harm the environment".  Maybe it would, maybe it wouldn't.  But don't they have to come up with more than "It'll spoke the tourists"?  Since when can't greenies creatively make something up?

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