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Using Lasers to Kill Mosquitos that Cause Malaria

March 21, 2011 | 34,014 views
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by Dr. Mercola

Nathan Myhrvold presents a live demo of a new mosquito-zapping device that you have to see to believe.

Every year, malaria results in about one million deaths - which is half as many people as are killed by HIV/AIDS annually. It is such an enormous problem in Africa that each African child has, on average, between 1.6 and 5.4 episodes of malaria fever every year.

Pregnant women are at high risk of not only dying from the complications of severe malaria, but also of spontaneous abortion, premature delivery or stillbirth.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), malaria is also a cause of maternal anemia and is responsible for about one third of preventable low birth weight babies. Each year in Africa alone, malaria is responsible for the deaths of 10,000 pregnant women and 200,000 infants.

Malaria is caused by a parasite of the species plasmodium, which is spread from person to person by infected mosquitoes. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment are necessary to control this disease and to save the lives of those afflicted.

However, antimalarial drugs have terrible side effects, and their inappropriate usage has contributed to widespread parasitic drug resistance over the past century.

And pesticides, such as DDT, come with long-term risks even worse than the disease itself. DDT continues to be used to control mosquitoes in many countries, but fortunately, it was banned in the U.S. in 1972. Our best hope of controlling malaria is by controlling the vector that transmits it: mosquitoes.

Drugs, Chemicals, Genetic Manipulation and Vaccines Are Not the Solution

We are certainly in need of a solution. However, drugs and vaccines come with too many problems of their own and should be avoided.

For example, antimalarial drug Lariam (mefloquine) is associated with mood and behavioral problems, including suicidal/homicidal thoughts, anxiety, hallucinations, and neurological problems. One study reported mild to serious neuropsychiatric reactions in nearly one-third of the people who took it.

Safer strategies are needed, so I welcome innovations like the "laser-zappers" featured above.

Yet, billions of dollars are still gifted to the drug industry each year to develop more and more vaccines, which weakens children's immune systems and WORSENS the problem of infectious disease, rather than remedying it.

Last year, the Gates Foundation made what might very well be the largest charitable donation in history to increase vaccination worldwide, and sadly, it's a disaster waiting to happen due to the misconception that more drugs are the answer to world health problems.

What really mystifies me is how this $10 billion donation cannot be considered a direct subsidy of the drug companies, as they will be the ones that benefit. It's a pity all that money isn't going to solutions that actually address the underlying problems, such as nutrition, clean water, sanitation and vitamin D.

How many water purification systems would $10 billion build in Haiti, or India? How many sanitation facilities? How many bushels of fresh produce?

The most vulnerable of the world's children are those in the poorest countries where death and disease is often a result of malnutrition, and where children are often battling some sort of infection 200 days out of the year.

Drugs and vaccines can be devastating to these immunosuppressed children, as well as to adults.

Pesticides and Frankenbugs

Pesticides are widely used, and their rates of use jump up every time the world is faced with a "new" pathogenic threat that becomes sensationalized by the media. This was the case in 2000 when widespread panic about West Nile Virus led to massive pesticide spraying campaigns against mosquitoes in the Northeastern United States.

Pesticides have been connected with birth defects in animals, immune and endocrine dysfunction, increased risk for breast cancer, thyroid dysfunction (including thyroid cancer) and miscarriage.

Pesticides are still widely used to control mosquitoes in many parts of the world, and many tropical countries still spray DDT to control malaria. DDT is probably the most well known synthetic pesticide and highly effective against mosquitoes.

However, DDT is an extremely persistent chemical. It is fat-soluble but not water-soluble. So it doesn't wash out of the environment, or out of your body. Although it was banned almost 40 years ago in the U.S., DDT was found in nearly ALL human blood samples tested by the CDC in 2005.

Our food is grown and our livestock graves on soil that still retains some of the DDT applied to it decades ago.

DDT gets into your fat cells and stays there, because your body can't break it down, and not being water-soluble, your blood can't wash it away. It is easily absorbed into the plasma membranes of your cells (which are made of lipids), where it opens up those cell membranes and causes your cells to leak.

This disturbs the Na+ and K+ ionic flow across the cell membrane, which in turn can prevent your nerve cells from properly firing their signals. When an organism (including a human) is poisoned with a high enough amount of DDT, it dies either by convulsions or paralysis.

So, by using DDT to combat the spread of malaria, we are trading an infectious disease problem for irreversible chemical poisoning. Between 3,000 and 4,000 tonnes of DDT continues to be produced and exported for use each year.

More recently, scientists have been trying to breed genetically modified mosquitoes that would alter the mosquito population worldwide by the spreading of a synthetic gene that would make it impossible for the insects to pass malaria on to humans.

However, by playing God, they are playing with fire!

Once you let Frankenbugs out into the wild, you can never undo it. We have no idea what the repercussions of this could be, and there have been many lessons learned the hard way through such arrogant disregard for nature.

Building Children's Immune Systems with Good Nutrition and Water

Drugs and vaccines are NOT the way to improve the health of children - or anyone else, for that matter. The ability to resist diseases like malaria requires a strong immune system, and for that, you need good nutrition, clean drinking water, and sanitation. If we want to help people in other countries to lower their malaria rates, we should be focusing on the basics first.

Even vaccine manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline, in a 2010 presentation to its shareholders, admitted that clean drinking water is the best way to save lives. Water affects every facet of your health.

Once the basics are addressed, then we can begin applying technological solutions to further improve the situation.

Innovative Ways of Fighting Malaria

There have been a number of safe and somewhat effective solutions found over the past several years that may help us in the fight against malaria. Chances are it will take a combination of several approaches, as opposed to the elusive "magic bullet."

Besides laser zapping, here are a few other strategies science has offered as potentially helpful in our malaria battle:

  • Magnetic fields: Scientists from University of Washington in Seattle have destroyed malaria parasites using an oscillating magnetic field.
  • Fungus: Two types of fungi (Beauveria bassiana and Metarhizium anisopliae) have been shown to kill malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
  • Artemisinin and arginine: Artemisinin (also called sweet wormwood) is an herb that has very powerful antimalarial effects and has been used for more than 1,500 years in China. Arginine, and amino acid, has also been found to be beneficial.
  • Garlic: This little bulb has been found to be active against viruses, fungi, bacteria and cancer - and a 2001 study revealed its potential in fighting malarial infections. Garlic MUST be fresh - the active ingredient is destroyed within hours of smashing it. Garlic pills are a waste of your time and money.
  • Cinnamon Oil: Cinnamon oil was found to be quite effective at repelling mosquitoes in a 2004 study.

Driving Nasty Mosquitoes Away

Reducing your chances of falling ill to a mosquito-borne disease requires a two-fold approach:

  1. Reducing the number of mosquitoes around you in your home and yard, and
  2. Optimizing your immune health by making wise lifestyle choices related to the foods you eat, the water you drink, exercise, sleep, etc.

To keep the skeeters away, their breeding sites must be reduced. The number one strategy for this is getting rid of standing water.

A good start is removal of old tires, cans, buckets, flowerpot trays and other items that accumulate water when it rains.

You should also keep your rain gutters, swimming pools, and birdbaths clean. Fill in swampy areas and soil depressions so that water doesn't pool. For other practical suggestions, refer to the American Mosquito Control Association website.

As reported by the New York Times, a simple house fan may be all you need to keep mosquitoes at bay in your backyard, because it disperses the carbon dioxide you exhale, which is one of the chemicals that attracts them.

A fan also cools you off in the summer, decreasing the sweat, lactic acid, and body heat that attract them.

A great and much overlooked strategy for reducing mosquitoes on your property is installation of a bat house. Most bats eat huge numbers of insects - including mosquitoes! There are a variety of pre-built bat houses available on the Internet, and I have even seen some offered at farmer's markets.

Bat Conservation International and the Organization for Bat Conservation are good resources for information about bat houses and bat conservation, in general.

What about Repellants?

The use of insect repellants can be helpful, but be careful about what you use. If you are planning a vacation to a mosquito-laden area, packing a good one is important since you might not be able to find a SAFE repellant at your destination.

DEET is still the most common ingredient in most commercial insect repellants.

Steer clear of anything that has DEET!

DEET is a highly toxic chemical and needs to be avoided as it has been found to cause:

Problems controlling muscle movement, memory, concentration and learning Muscle pain, joint pain, and tremors
Eye and skin irritation Nausea
Headaches Shortness of breath
Weakness and fatigue  

Making matters worse, DEET is also combined with other chemicals in many products, in combinations found to be more dangerous than DEET alone. Other agents can also react with DEET, such as the chemicals in your skin care products or medications.

Besides DEET, there are other potentially harmful chemicals in bug sprays, one of which is permethrin.

Permethrin is a member of the synthetic pyrethroid family, all of which are neurotoxins. Even the EPA has deemed this chemical carcinogenic - it causes lung tumors, liver tumors, immune system problems, and chromosomal abnormalities.

Please note that permethrin is highly toxic to cats. Even a few drops can be lethal to your feline companion. Permethrin is used as an ingredient in some topical flea products, so when you see "for dogs only" on the label, it likely contains permethrin.

Permethrin is also damaging to the environment, being particularly toxic to bees and aquatic life.

Fortunately, safer and more natural bug repellants are becoming a bit easier to find.

I have formulated a natural insect repellant that contains a combination of citronella, lemongrass oil, peppermint oil, and vanillin, which is a dynamite blend of natural plant extracts. In fact, an independent study showed BUG SPRAY to be more effective than a product containing 100 percent DEET.

And unlike toxic chemical repellants, it's safe for you, your children, and your pets.

[+] Sources and References

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