Science Has Given Us the Power to Undermine Nature's Deadliest Creature: Should We Use It?

The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can carry devastating diseases, was recently engineered by a biotech company to have a genetic "kill switch" intended to crash the local population in the Florida Keys.

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Lurking among the swaying palm trees, sugary sands and azure waters of the Florida Keys is the most dangerous animal on earth: the mosquito.

While there are thousands of varieties of mosquitoes, only a small percentage of them are responsible for causing disease. One of the leading culprits is Aedes aegypti, which thrives in the warm standing waters of South Florida, Central America and other tropical climes, and carries the viruses that cause yellow fever, dengue, chikungunya and Zika.

Dengue, a leading cause of death in many Asian and Latin American countries, causes bleeding and pain so severe that it's referred to as "breakbone fever." Chikungunya and yellow fever can both be fatal, and Zika, when contracted by a pregnant woman, can infect her fetus and cause devastating birth defects, including a condition called microcephaly. Babies born with this condition have abnormally small heads and lack proper brain development, which leads to profound, lifelong disabilities.

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Eve Herold
Eve Herold is a science writer specializing in issues at the intersection of science and society. She has written and spoken extensively about stem cell research and regenerative medicine and the social and bioethical aspects of leading-edge medicine. Her 2007 book, Stem Cell Wars, was awarded a Commendation in Popular Medicine by the British Medical Association. Her 2016 book, Beyond Human, has been nominated for the Kirkus Prize in Nonfiction, and a forthcoming book, Robots and the Women Who Love Them, will be released in 2019.
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The Omicron variant poses new uncertainty for the vaccines, which four leading experts will address during our virtual event on December 17th, 2021.

Photo by Quinten Braem on Unsplash

This virtual event will convene leading scientific and medical experts to discuss the most pressing questions around the new Omicron variant, including what we know so far about its ability to evade COVID-19 vaccines, the role of boosters in eliciting heightened immunity, and the science behind variants and vaccines. A public Q&A will follow the expert discussion.

EVENT INFORMATION:

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Kira Peikoff

Kira Peikoff is the editor-in-chief of Leaps.org. As a journalist, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, Nautilus, Popular Mechanics, The New York Academy of Sciences, and other outlets. She is also the author of four suspense novels that explore controversial issues arising from scientific innovation: Living Proof, No Time to Die, Die Again Tomorrow, and Mother Knows Best. Peikoff holds a B.A. in Journalism from New York University and an M.S. in Bioethics from Columbia University. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and two young sons. Follow her on Twitter @KiraPeikoff.

A visualization of the original coronavirus causing COVID-19, which has now been detected across the globe in a highly mutated form called Omicron.

If the new variant Omicron isn’t here already – which many experts suspect that it is – it will be soon. While we wait for scientists to conduct the necessary research to characterize its transmissibility, potential fitness at immune evasion, and disease severity, we wanted to give Leaps.org readers a window into how the U.S. is positioned to detect the variant. So we spoke to Kelly Wroblewski, director of infectious diseases at the Association of Public Health Laboratories, a membership organization that represents state and local government health labs in the United States. Here are seven insights she shared.

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Kira Peikoff

Kira Peikoff is the editor-in-chief of Leaps.org. As a journalist, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, Nautilus, Popular Mechanics, The New York Academy of Sciences, and other outlets. She is also the author of four suspense novels that explore controversial issues arising from scientific innovation: Living Proof, No Time to Die, Die Again Tomorrow, and Mother Knows Best. Peikoff holds a B.A. in Journalism from New York University and an M.S. in Bioethics from Columbia University. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and two young sons. Follow her on Twitter @KiraPeikoff.