Friday, 19 March 2010

Malaria in the UK

I saw a snippet on TV last night (I forget which programme) in which a female scientist was pond-dipping in southern England and collecting Anopheles mosquito larvae, and she reported that local people have caught malaria from them. (Wikipedia tells me there are 460 species in the genus Anopheles, and I don't know which one this is.)

So I learn three things from this. First, that malaria-carrying mosquitoes can survive in the UK and were only eradicated in the 1950's (no doubt using DDT and eradicating a lot of innocent wildlife in the process), second, that unlike most other mosquitoes, the females hang on walls and ceilings at 45°, rather than parallel to the surface the way most other mosquitoes do, and third, scarily, they're back. It's going to be much harder to eradicate them this time, but I reckon now's the time to be breeding sterile males and releasing them on large numbers. This technique has been shown to work locally. Can't remember how they sterilise the males, might be irradiation.

Apparently at least one malaria sufferer had never left the shores of the UK, which doesn't quite exclude the possibility of a female mosquito making it to the UK inside an airliner and then finding her victim nearby, but that's pretty unlikely.

Oh and don't worry about them releasing millions of mozzies to bite you; only the females bite. The males don't eat at all during their short adult phase.

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