CRISPR threatens humanity’s greatest killer


A map from March. 2, 2015, showcasing the countries at risk for malaria. “Who really cares about the future consequences when you have so much more to gain from potentially wiping out disease and suffering for our entire species,” Schmitt said. In 2015, there were over 214,000,000 cases of malaria.

“Genetic power’s the most awesome force the planet has ever seen, but you wield it like a kid that’s found his dad’s gun.”

Jeff Goldblum’s character in Steven Spielberg’s classic movie “Jurassic Park” played a vital role in foreshadowing the influence and danger of genetic modification. Scientists are no longer bringing dinosaurs back from the dead though. Instead, they are modifying mosquitoes in hopes of eliminating disease across the world.

The weapon to fight such diseases as Malaria, Zika, Dengue Fever and Yellow Fever is called CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats). This gene modifier would force favorable genes to become dominant in future generations of mosquitoes. These genes could potentially make the new strain of mosquito immune to carrying the Malaria parasite and other disease or function in a way that would flip a “kill switch” in mosquitoes shortly after breeding and passing on this lethal gene. This “kill switch” method is already being deployed in Brazil by a company by the name of Oxitec.

“You can’t mess with it [genetic manipulation] and expect nothing to happen,” biology teacher Amanda Clark said.

Choosing the total eradication option has several worried with the unknown impact on global and local ecosystems, as mosquitoes are a food source for not only bats but some birds and fish. With CRISPR comes choices, and how scientists tackle the mosquito debate and future cases involving disease and their counterpart (ticks and lyme disease for example) will have resounding effects on the world and humanity.

“I see it as a tool for humanity in terms of getting rid of disease,” senior Joey Schmitt said. “Long-term I think the benefits outweigh the risks.”