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The End of Mosquitoes for Good?

A parasite is an organism (or living thing) that lives on or inside another organism. It depends on the other organism for food and other things that it needs to live. The parasite's victim is called its host. The host is usually much larger than the parasite. Some parasites cause disease.

A mosquito is a small insect that can spread diseases through its bite. Female mosquitoes feed on human blood for the nourishment (food) of their offspring (babies) while they are still forming in her body. Male mosquitoes feed only on plant juices, like nectar, to get the sugar they need for energy and survival. Since male mosquitoes do not bite, they cannot spread diseases.

Malaria is a disease caused by parasites that get into people through the bites of infected female mosquitoes. Different from a normal parasite, the female mosquito does not live closely with the host. They just suck the blood and leave the human host. Malaria is a preventable and curable disease, but about 229 million people in the world got malaria in 2019 because it can be easily spread from one person to another.

Scientists are looking at genetic engineering as a way to get rid of mosquitoes and stop the spread of malaria. Genetic engineering is a process of changing the genes of a living thing. Genes are tiny units that carry information about an organism. Genetic engineering has many uses. It may also be used to make helpful medical substances, like vaccines.

The experiment was done by putting a mutation of male mosquitoes (using the male mouthparts that are not able to bite) into the female mosquitoes to stop them from biting and laying eggs. The experiment worked and eventually destroyed the mosquitoes.

A mutation is a mistake or a change in a living thing's DNA. DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is a chain of chemical units found in each cell of a living thing. The chemical units are arranged in a particular sequence, or order. This sequence forms a kind of code, called a genetic code, that tells cells what to do.

It will take time to do more experiments outside the laboratory to see how this works in the real world. Until then, you can do things to reduce the number of mosquitoes in an area and to protect yourself from mosquito bites:

  • Get rid of sources of standing water, like buckets. These are breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants and use insect repellent when in areas with lots of mosquitoes.

World Malaria Day is on April 25 each year and highlights efforts to control malaria in the world, while also celebrating the results that have been made.

Learn more about World Malaria Day, mosquitoes, and efforts to genetically engineer mosquitoes:


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