Oh, I had HIGH hopes for this one.

Oh, I had HIGH hopes for this one.

Here’s the headline I found on Ivanhoe Newswire: “Glow-in-the-Dark Mosquitoes Prevent Malaria Spread.”

Let’s just enjoy that thought for a moment It’s a warm July evening. You’re sitting out on the back deck, or on the porch swing, or in your car at the drive-in. Are the mosquitoes out tonight? Let’s check. Just turn out the lights and there they are! Glow-in-the-dark mosquitoes. AND – bonus! – they prevent the spread of malaria.

Ah, but it’s time to come down to earth and back to reality.

That Ivanhoe headline turns out to be just a LITTLE misleading. First of all, scientists have not bred a variety of glow-in-the-dark mosquito. Secondly, this mosquito has not been shown to prevent the spread of malaria.

Well, at least they got the “mosquito” part right!

Once we get into the full article we find out that scientists at Johns Hopkins have created a mosquito with EYES that glow in the dark. The mosquitoes were also genetically altered to resist malaria. They were given glow-in-the-dark eyes to distinguish them from normal mosquitoes in a trial that’s considered a breakthrough.

Previous attempts to create a mosquito that resists malaria have been successful, but in each case the new mosquitoes were not able to outbreed and overtake populations of mosquitoes that carry malaria. In this trial, the bright-eyed mosquitoes prevailed in the survival of the fittest, living longer and doing a better job of procreating than the malaria carriers.

Now comes the tricky part: Getting this new malaria resistant gene into the general mosquito population.

Johns Hopkins researcher Jason Rasgon, Ph.D., told Ivanhoe that their transgeneic mosquito won’t be a magic bullet in solving the malaria dilemma. In fact, he says, if this gene came to dominate in mosquito populations, it would also be necessary to use insecticides and a vaccine, “if one is ever created.” Those are two pretty big “ifs.”

Meanwhile, maybe they should follow up on this idea of a glow-in-the-dark mosquito. If you can see them coming, you’ve got a fighting chance.

“Glow-In-the-Dark Mosquitoes Prevent Malaria Spread” Heather Kohn, Ivanhoe Newswire, 3/21/07, ivanhoe.com