Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dengue Shui

Dengue Fever has popped up down in Key West. Dengue Fever is brought to us by mosquitoes. Unless you're a frog, mosquitoes never bring you anything you want. It's been one thing after another with them ever since our ancestors shambled out of Africa, slapping themselves siilly. People who get Dengue Fever might present with no symptoms at all, or they might die. Which makes Dengue Fever a lot like life.

Nobody knows how to kill the Dengue virus, so they're going after the suitcases they come in on. They're going to try to alter the mosquitoes. Only the females bite people, because they need a blood meal to reproduce, whereas the males are fine with beer and bean dip. So they plan to get a bunch of the male mosquitoes, and introduce a gene that will cause them to drop dead.

So far, swatting sounds easier. Even the prospect of combing through the mosquito population for the ones with tiny mosquito penises sounds hard, and that's even before the gene manipulation. But it's more complicated than that. They want the mosquitoes to drop dead after they mate with the wild female population (Key West being famous for wild females), and thus after they have passed their gene of doom into a new generation. After a few more rounds, no more mosquitoes.

The way they plan to keep the male mosquitoes alive long enough to pass on the self-destruct gene is to give them tetracycline. They're counting on the mosquitoes to be even worse at going the full course on the tetracycline than people are. The only drawback so far seems to be that the manipulated mosquitoes don't mate as readily as the wild population, which makes sense. Existential dread can suppress the libido.

Mosquitoes mostly don't live very long anyway, although some  have adapted to being frozen for long periods and then thawing out good as new. So there might be some promise in introducing a gene for freezer-burn. Other researchers were looking into the possibility of introducing a gene that prolongs the adolescence of the mosquito, causing its own parents to murder the insolent little bastards. In this way the bad karma is off-loaded to the bugs themselves. But this approach was abandoned when it was found that the aggravation of having teenage mosquitoes around caused the female mosquitoes to drink even more, resulting in a spike in Dengue transmission.

There are people worried about this whole venture. Genetic manipulation, it is feared, will have unforeseen consequences down the road, such as a collapse of all mosquito populations. And that might lead to a collapse of everything else on up the food chain, including us, and the likelihood that the final generation of humans will not be itchy is considered an insufficient benefit. Opponents point out that the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries Dengue virus, is uniquely adapted to breed in still water in vessels as small as a tire or a bottlecap. So, in theory, a campaign to eradicate breeding opportunities by cleaning up litter would be a feasible low-tech alternative to gene futzing. However, Key West is still in America, which means any official attempt to curtail littering will be widely interpreted as a threat to
our freedoms.

So we're back to square one. The truly American thing to do would be to somehow supply arms to the mosquitoes, all factions, and let them kill each other. That's always worked out well for us.  Or maybe we should just accept the idea that the Dengue virus and its mosquito hosts are going to peel off a certain portion of our population. Except that we don't like bugs to do that. We'd rather do it ourselves.

38 comments:

  1. I'm all for using genetic manipulation to get rid of bugs. In the long war between humanity and buggery, we must deploy every available weapon.

    The trouble with using conventional means to get rid of bugs is that they specialize in being small and numerous. We couldn't slap every mosquito in Florida, even if we could find them all, which we can't. And any plan which depends on cleaning up every piece of litter down to the last bottle-cap that could hold standing water is doomed to failure.

    But it stands to reason that the one creature most skilled at finding female mosquitos is a male mosquito. So let's turn that ability against them.

    As for a "collapse of all mosquito populations", well, if the frogs lack mosquitos, let them eat cake, or flies, or whatever. As a vegetarian I'm not "on up the food chain" from any critter, least of all mosquitos.

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    1. I am going to take the phrase "long war between humanity and buggery" and put it in a safe, special place.

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  2. Slap those little buggars.

    Oh, and I just watched your "promo" video. Really good.

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    1. Yeah, that was a really nice thing they did, just before the whole FieldReport website imploded before they could make me famous. And I still can't get a dang agent!

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  3. We can wait for global warming to sink Key West - and the pesky mosquitoes. Or maybe we can provide special body suits for women that mosquitoes cannot bite through. After a while they will starve to death.

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    1. I gots me a feeling mosquitoes will survive global warming...and cockroaches, and horseflies, and....

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    2. Sadly, they're very adaptable. In Africa, for example, they used to be confined to the forests, so Africans avoided mosquito-borne diseases by building their towns well away from forests and the rivers where they bred. Now, with the forests mostly gone, the mosquitos have been forced to adapt to a wider range of environments, and there's no getting away from them. I'm sure flooding their current habitat in the US would have the same effect. But they can't evolve to survive genetic manipulation (or slapping).

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  4. Ew. Now I'm going to feel like something is crawling in the neck of my shirt all day long.

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    1. It's probably just your shirt tag. I hate those things.

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  5. "Existential dread can suppress the libido."
    Good one.

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  6. Why not a dragonfly drone building program? There are millions of teenage boys ready to operate them from the comfort of their bedrooms. Better yet, there could be a cell phone ap.

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    1. With the added benefit of keeping the teenage boys in their bedrooms and off the streets.

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    1. Y'all feel free to get together and work up a proposal. I'll submit it to the proper authorities.

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  8. That's it. I'm never going outside again.

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    1. Hah. I'll bet you're outside right now.

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  9. You start screwing with genetics and you never know what the end results will be down the road.
    It could backfire or cause other more serious problems. What does Pat L. think...
    On mosquitoes, my dad used to tell us that the ones in Missouri could drain a cow in one night and leave a dried up carcass...he also said they could carry us off if we weren't careful, so on trips to Mo from CA we would be afraid to be out at night.

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    1. And Rose, you and I live in a place where we don't even put screens on our windows. At least I don't. I will never move.

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    2. Yes, our screenless window deal--astounded me after decades in SoFL where even screens don't keep out the hordes of six/eight-legged, winged, biting, crawling, creepiest-ever population. And they bring bugs with them, too.

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  10. I am torn on this one. I'm not overly fond of skeeters, but I hate to starve the frogs (& bats). Could they not branch out into, say, vegan foods, perhaps some nice lentils or oatmeal?

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  11. Maybe we can break them in on Spam?

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  12. Key West was (briefly) Hemingway country. Without question he would have wanted to shoot (preferably with a machine gun) all the squitoes. Gene manipulation sounds a tad easier, but I would be reluctant to go ahead. I suspect the ramifications could be horrifying - and irrevocable.
    You said '... or they might die. Which makes Dengue Fever a lot like life.' What aren't you telling us? When did you become immortal?

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  13. I'm just thanking my lucky stars that the Ozzie mozzies don't carry the Dengue fever virus. However, I love the idea of mozzie males being a suitcase! If we humans can have snake skin, tiger skin, crocodile skin, etc, suitcases why not mozzie skin ones too. I know this is not quite what you meant but it tickled my fancy and was very snort worthy. :-)

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    1. I was just contemplating how many hides it would take to make a decent-sized carry-on, and if you have that many at your disposal, I am truly sorry.

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  14. "Unless you're a frog, mosquitoes never bring you anything you want. "

    Not true! Mosquito Claus, a jolly insect who rides in a sleigh pulled by Guinea worms, brings Christmas presents to good little larvae.


    "... whereas the males are fine with beer and bean dip."

    Sort of like humans!

    "...although some have adapted to being frozen for long periods and then thawing out good as new."

    Sort of like Pennsylvanians!

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    1. Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Are you a Pennsylvanian? We didn't even get cold enough here last winter to turn all my zone-denial plants into snot.

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  15. Our biggest mistake is using conventional weapons. If we go with the newkyuler option (I think that's what Dubya called it) you get rid of hosts AND carriers. Along with a smattering of genetic mutations, you'll solve all kinds of problems better than nature could ever do. And Earth Day is coming up soon. Boy are we gonna have a celebration!
    Gotta go. Men in white coats are coming.

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    1. It's a clean start, for sure. Not necessarily for your non-insect/arthropod population...

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  16. thanks for the early (as hell 3:30 or so !~! ) smiles. I needed, you provided--worked out well.

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    1. You are most welcome! I set these things to go off when I'm asleep. That way if there are any repercussions I can pretend it wasn't me.

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  17. I can vouch for female teenskeeters changing the course of skeeter history. Packs of those girls will do it every time.

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