Press Release: Solving the Zika Problem
Posted on August 12th, 2016
Mosquitoes cause more human suffering than any other organism — over one million people worldwide die yearly from mosquito-borne diseases such as Chikungunya, West Nile, Dengue, Yellow Fever, and Zika1. Controlling the population of these mosquitoes is critical to controlling the spread of the viruses they transmit.
Unfortunately, popular control methods have not stopped the spread of these mosquitoes. Insecticides and larvicides accumulate in the environment, always kill more than the intended species, and may be toxic to humans. In addition, there is evidence that mosquitoes are becoming resistant to the insecticides!2 Mosquito traps using carbon dioxide or pheromones as a lure are expensive to purchase and operate. And biological control with aquatic predators does not work for the mosquitoes which spread Zika, which often develop in small containers that may completely dry out between rains. Despite the variety of popular control methods, and the vast sums spent on mosquito control, the range of Aedes aegypti and A. albopictus is spreading, reflecting their growing adaptation to living with humans, and perhaps in response to a warming planet. A better method may be needed to supplement the various control methods now in place.
What the planet needs is a “biorational” solution — a method that targets just one species, that is not toxic to any other organism and is particularly harmless to humans and other vertebrates. Such a solution is available for development and distribution from Biorational.Solutions.
The device capitalizes on some facts about mosquito biology:
- Males are drawn by the sound of a flying female of their own species. So the device includes an audible lure — a recording of a female in flight — that lures males into the trap. The males must enter through small holes that are too small for bees, butterflies, or other desirable insects to enter by accident.
- Mating typically occurs during the first hour of darkness. The sound plays intermittently during the period. When it is off, the disappointed males have a chance to escape.
- Males feed on nectar, not blood. Inside the device, males have access to a surface covered with a mixture of honey and chemosterilant. They eat the mixture, are sterilized, and not finding a female inside the trap, fly off in search of love.
- Males will mate with seven or so females, particularly after their meal of honey. Each female will only mate with one male, however, and mating with a sterilized male will assure her eggs are infertile.
This device is intended to be manufactured at very low cost so that it may be distributed to every household in a region concerned about Zika or battling mosquitoes. The sound could be produced by a device as inexpensive as the circuit board inside a talking greeting card, and placed inside a perforated carryout box for Chinese food. Because the sound need only be produced intermittently, only for an hour a day, and need not be loud, a modest battery should power it for a month or more.
Unfortunately, no little startup can succeed in manufacturing and distributing such devices on the scale and in the timeframe that the Zika crisis requires. A startup can’t even protect a patent application. Lobbyists and Congress weakened patent protections with the America Invents Act, and patent trolls from big business simply litigate with individual inventors until they get what they want3. At this writing, the Patent Office averages 16.1 months before it takes the first action on a patent application, and 25.6 months to process the average application. Over 549,000 patent applications are now awaiting examination4. We have never heard from the Patent Office on our patent application submitted long ago.
So we are abandoning our idea of turning a good idea into a product to save the world. It is hoped that others — perhaps the CDC or WHO — will show an interest in the idea, and take responsibility for manufacturing and distribution. More details on the idea may be found at DavidStang.com and at our would-be company’s web site Biorational.Solutions.
- “Mosquito-Borne Diseases“. American Mosquito Control Association. ↩
- See the many papers at Google Scholar. ↩
- Eden, Scott. “How the U.S. Patent Office Got So Screwed Up“; Guilford, Michael “If Patent Reform is Meant to Starve Patent Trolls, Why is it Feeding them Instead?” ↩
- Patents Data at a Glance. USPTO. ↩