Neutralising the Dengue mosquito – Bahamas Tribune commentary
[The] talk in some quarters was that dengue fever had been banished forever from the Caymans. Of course, the next rumble was: If the Caymans can do it, why not the Bahamas?
That’s where we should slow down and do some thinking.
The Caymans is now undergoing a controlled scientific experiment that shows great promise — that is if there is no adverse fall-out from man’s attempt once again to tweak nature.
While the Bahamas had more than 1,500 persons with dengue-like symptoms this summer, last month the Caymans reported its first local case, explaining that it was “most probably imported from the Bahamas by a returning resident”.
Although the dengue carrying mosquito [Aedes aegypti] is in the Caymans, it has not been active. It is said that dengue fever is not endemic to those islands.
[A]ccording to the Pan American Health Organisation, Caribbean countries reported… confirmed dengue fever cases, with the Bahamas and Aruba on the very high-end of the scale.
According to a Wall Street Journal article researchers in 2010 released 3.3 million male mosquitoes that had been genetically altered so that they were born sterile. These mated with females in a small test area, passing on their defect. In turn, this killed their offspring at the larval stage. This, it was reported, triggered a population collapse.
However, scientists hailed the success with a great deal of caution. They are only too aware that every time an attempt is made to alter the natural state of the ecosystem there can be adverse reactions. This brings us to Newton’s third law of physics that states that for every action there is a reaction of equal magnitude, but in the opposite direction.
There is perfect balance in nature; when that balance is upset there are consequences. What if, say some scientists, the DNA from the genetically altered mosquito gets into other bugs – or even man, they could cause even more harm.
So this government when offered to be a part of the experiment took a wait-and-see attitude before exposing the Bahamas to the results of a test-tube experiment.
Environment Minister Dr Earl Deveaux said the company conducting the trial had approached the Bahamas government. However, at the time the Government was not convinced that it was a viable option as there were too many unknown factors associated with it. Wisely, the government declined, with the Minister continuing to hold a watching brief. [...]