Why Eradicating Earth’s Mosquitoes To Fight Disease Is Probably a Bad Idea

Image: Tom/Flickr
Image: Tom/Flickr
The Zika virus has been spreading across dozens of major countries, blazing a trail of tragedies and fear. On Saturday, officials with the World Health Organization announced that they feared the outbreak could be a larger threat to global health than the Ebola epidemic.

By Melissa Cronin|MOTHERBOARD

Scientists and politicians are looking for solutions and, as often happens in the midst of the outbreak of any mosquito-born illness, some have brought up an age-old idea: kill every mosquito on Earth. In an article for Slate published Friday, columnist Daniel Engber argued that the total and complete eradication of mosquitoes is our best option for fighting infectious disease.

But what would a world free of mosquitoes look like? Would it be an Earth in which the infectious diseases that plague millions are completely, permanently, and mercifully wiped out? Probably not. In fact, the eradication of an entire species could bring along with it an endless string of unforeseen consequences, one that could possibly be worse for humans than the problems we have now.

„We don’t need to wipe them all out to dramatically reduce the burden of mosquito-borne disease globally.”

The need to deal with the enormous and heartbreaking problem of mosquito-borne illnesses is more urgent than ever. In 2014, Bill Gates famously introduced the mosquito as the “deadliest animal in the world,” citing that mosquito-borne illnesses kill some 725,000 people each year. Malaria alone kills 6 million people every decade. Then there’s Dengue Fever, West Nile virus, chikungunya, and a host of other deadly illnesses, all brought about by tiny, bloodsucking mosquitoes. In fact, mosquitoes, despite not carrying sharp teeth or large body size, are deadly only in their ability to carry and transmit disease.

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