"Nuclear strike against mosquitoes": how will radiation help fight malaria?

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"Nuclear strike against mosquitoes": how will radiation help fight malaria?
"Nuclear strike against mosquitoes": how will radiation help fight malaria?

In China, they have found a way to kill mosquitoes using radiation. According to Wu Zhongdao, director of the Nuclear Technology Center under the State Department of Atomic Energy, in an interview with the Global Times, radiation helps to effectively inhibit insect reproduction. The Russian scientist commented on the development of his Chinese colleagues in an interview with the Sputnik news agency.

China has fought malaria centrally since the 1950s, using different methods. We used mosquito nets with insecticides, drainage of territories, search for new drugs to combat malaria.

The new method is simple in its essence - irradiation with radiation makes male mosquitoes sterile, as a result of which they cannot reproduce when they encounter female mosquitoes from the wild. In addition, nuclear energy is environmentally friendly and kills chemical-resistant mosquitoes.

Russian scientist, candidate of biological sciences, associate professor of the Faculty of Bioengineering and Veterinary Medicine of the Don State Technical University (DSTU) Alexander Evsyukov noted in an interview with Sputnik the effectiveness and safety of the method, but warned against possible negative consequences.

“Research shows that this method is safe for both humans and the environment. However, it must be understood that the use of sterilized males to control different insects can affect populations in different ways and depends on the biology of a particular species. A negative example of mosquito control in Brazil. True, there was used not radiation, but genetic modification to sterilize males. Such GM males were released into the environment and the first time after the experiment, the number of mosquitoes really decreased. But after some time, the population completely recovered in population and even expanded its area, "- said the biologist.

It is not a fact that the expansion of the range was somehow connected with the experiment, other factors could have influenced. But the fact remains - the population has recovered. It is assumed that females somehow learned to distinguish sterile GM males from normal ones and did not mate with them.

"The main thing here is to maintain a balance," the biologist said. After all, completely eliminating mosquitoes is a very bad idea. This will lead to unpredictable consequences: the food supply of many insectivorous species will disappear, and the number of pollinators, which may be male mosquitoes, will decrease.

In addition, mosquito larvae are quite effective in filtering and purifying water.

Vector control

"In terms of a set of measures to combat mosquitoes - vectors of diseases, of course, the experience of China is of great importance. As well as the experience of other countries that have defeated malaria, such as the Republic of Uzbekistan, Argentina and many others," said Alexander Evsyukov.

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 700,000 people die each year from mosquito-borne diseases (Zika, dengue, malaria). And in 2021, the WHO recognized the PRC as a country free of malaria.

According to Chinese scientists, only modern technologies will allow humanity to get rid of mosquitoes - carriers of dangerous diseases and control their spread.

As Evsyukov told Sputnik, similar developments began to be carried out in the world since the 50s of the XX century in different countries, including the USSR.

"There was, for example, such a scientist, Alexander Serebrovsky, who developed similar methods of control. True, these developments initially concerned not carriers of diseases, but agricultural pests. So, in our country, this method was used to fight the codling moth, and in the United States with a flyfly.These experiments were quite successful, "- said the Russian scientist.

Other ways

As Evsyukov told Sputnik, there are many alternative methods of mosquito control. Some of them are under development, others are only assumed.

"Among the developed methods are biological methods of control, for example, using fish. Some fish species can massively eat mosquito larvae. There are also such bacteria Wolbachia (Wolbachia). They are intracellular parasites of various arthropods, including mosquitoes. Males infected with these bacteria, will not be able to produce offspring when mating with females that do not have bacteria, "says the biologist.

An effective method, according to Evsyukov, can also be the use of microsporidia. These are such unicellular mushroom-like organisms that parasitize the cells of various insect species and lead to sterilization or death of their hosts. There are also various types of bacteria that produce toxins that are deadly to insects.

Sun Yat-sen University has also set up a "mosquito factory" to mass-breed sterile mosquitoes. With plans to release 40 to 50 million sterile mosquitoes per week, China can make a greater contribution to combating mosquito-borne diseases in developing countries and international public health problems.

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