6 amazing high-tech ways science could take care of the mosquito problem

Whether it’s because of their nasty habit of carrying diseases like Zika and malaria or just their penchant for being vacation-spoiling jerks, there’s plenty of reasons to hate mosquitos. Fortunately, some of the biggest mosquito haters out there turn out to be some pretty darn smart scientists and engineers.

Thanks to them, there are a whole lot of smart anti-mosquito deterrents on the way that go far beyond the usual bug sprays, rolled-up newspapers, and other off-the-shelf solutions. Read on for six of the amazing technologies that could soon bring us a utopian world free from needle-nosed vampire insects.

Malaria-resistant mosquitoes

CRISPR gene-editing technology

Malaria can be treated with the right drugs. Unfortunately, in some poorer parts of the developing world, getting the right drugs to people isn’t always easy. As a result, scientists from Johns Hopkins University have investigated a way to make mosquitos — as opposed to people — resistant to the malaria parasite.

Using CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing, they have engineered malaria-resistant mosquitos by deleting a gene which helps malaria survive in the mosquito’s gut. In preliminary trials, the researchers have demonstrated that the malaria parasite is unable to survive long enough to mature to the point that it becomes dangerous to humans.

Photonic fence

Aside from beaming them straight to the Delta Quadrant, it’s hard to think of a more Star Trek-sounding solution to the mosquito problem than Nathan Myhrvold’s “photonic fence.” Described in a 2010 TED talk, the former Microsoft CTO suggested one way to deal with bloodsucking insects would be by shooting them down with deadly lasers.

His system locks onto mosquitos by detecting the sound of their wings flapping, and then zaps them in the air with a low-power laser — thereby killing them or severely disabling them. These devices could be erected like a fence around a settlement, and would theoretically kill around 99 percent of mosquitos who attempt to break the barrier.

Nearly a decade after the talk, we’re still not seeing photonic fences on the regular, although the technology has reportedly been licensed out to interested parties — and even the U.S. Commerce Department has shown some enthusiasm.

There’s an app for that

app mosquito buzz 3
James Gathany / PHIL

Researchers from the University of Oxford are developing an app which uses machine learning to identify the acoustic signature of different mosquito species. This app can accurately identify the Anopheles species of mosquito — a.k.a. the one that’s responsible for spreading malaria — with around 72 percent accuracy.

To help expand the project, the team is now gathering more high-quality sound recordings that will allow the app to accurately identify all 3,600 different mosquito species. While this solution doesn’t eliminate disease-carrying mosquitoes, giving our smartphones the ability to quickly determine whether or not a mosquito is a potential disease carrier could be profoundly useful.

Drone dumping

zika drone mosquitoes img 7358

If your goal is to get rid of mosquito-carried viruses, could the answer be… more mosquitoes? That’s the unorthodox approach being pioneered by the company WeRobotics, which plans to breed sterile mosquitoes in captivity, transport them in large numbers via drone, and then dump them in an area where they will massively outnumber (and thus outbreed) the quantity of wild males.

The hope is that this could reduce local mosquito populations by up to 90 percent.

Thunderstorm-simulating wearables

Mosquitoes may be capable of transmitting deadly viruses, but they’re still tiny, delicate insects. That means they don’t exactly love being out in storms, and feel compelled to temporarily quit the blood-drinking to seek shelter.

Taking advantage of this evolutionary quirk, the makers of the Nopixgo wristband have developed a wearable device which emits weak electromagnetic signals that convince mosquitoes that a storm is on the way.

“This is a revolutionary new way to approach mosquito bites,” Johan Niklasson, chief business development officer at NopixGlobal, told Digital Trends. “In a way, the mosquitoes’ own genetics is used against them; something they cannot adapt to and avoid. It goes deeper than just repelling with bad smells or irritating sounds. No one has ever tried this before, and the technology has not existed to make this possible until just recently.”

Genetically-engineered killer mosquitoes

When it comes to governmental missteps, releasing a bunch of genetically-engineered killer mosquitoes should probably rank fairly high. Except that, as it turns out, it might be a smart move. Developed by the Kentucky-based biotech company MosquitoMate, the project uses male mosquitoes (which are the non-biting ones) as vehicles for carrying a potent mosquito insecticide.

When the genetically-engineered mosquitoes mate with females, the resulting eggs don’t hatch. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officially signed off on the plan last year, and numerous field tests have already been carried out. Watch this space!

Emerging Tech

Watch this lab-grown heart tissue beat just like the real thing

A team of researchers in Germany have used stem cells to create a lab-grown human heart tissue which actually beats, as well as responding to drugs in the same way as the real thing.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (November 2018)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Movies & TV

Out of movies to binge? Our staff picks the best flicks on Hulu right now

From classics to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'The Witch’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.

Get your Sagan on with 60 awe-inspiring photos of the final frontier

Few things instill a sense of wonder quite like the final frontier. The best space photos show off the beauty of Earth, our solar system, and the far corners of the universe. Here are our current favorites.

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Product Review

Airselfie 2 may as well be a GoPro stapled to a drunk hummingbird

On paper, the Airselfie 2 is marketed as flying photographer that fits in your pocket and snaps selfies from the sky. Unfortunately it’s more like a HandiCam controlled by a swarm of intoxicated bumblebees
Emerging Tech

‘Bionic mushroom’ can generate electricity without using fossil fuels

Researchers have come up with a way to produce electricity without fossil fuels using mushrooms covered with bacteria. The mushroom provides a safe environment for special cyanobacteria that generate electricity when light is shone on them.
Emerging Tech

Curiosity rover active and drilling again after computer issue

The Curiosity rover has succeeded in drilling a hole into the tough bedrock that previously defeated it, allowing imaging and collection of samples. The rover had been incapacitated for a few weeks due to problems with its computer.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers discover two rogue planets that do not orbit a star

Astronomers have identified two rogue planets in our galaxy which do not orbit around a star. Unlike the vast majority of discovered planets, these rogue planets drift through space alone with no sun to shine on them.
Emerging Tech

Pairs of supermassive black holes spotted in colliding galaxies

Astronomers have discovered several pairs of supermassive black holes in galaxies that are colliding with each other. These black holes will spiral closer and closer together and eventually merge into one supermassive black hole.
Emerging Tech

Quantum-based accelerometer can locate objects without GPS

Researchers have created a quantum "compass" that allows navigation without satellites. The instrument, technically called a standalone quantum accelerometer, is small enough to be transportable and has a very high level of accuracy.
Emerging Tech

Ancient continent discovered beneath the ice of Antarctica

Antarctica could be hiding the remains of a long-lost continent. Scientists created a 3D map of the crust beneath the Antarctic ice sheet which shows a similarity to the crust in Australia and India, suggesting they used to be joined.