Yet all this has just limited shortermed success. Fighting them with poison might be effective in the short term, but in the long run it only makes them stronger.
The humble MOSQUITO is without doubt the biggest "murderer" estimated to have been responsible for as many as 46 billion deaths over the history of our species ...more than half the humans that ever lived.
The Female mosquito A. aegypti flies silently, so it's hard to know when you're in danger of being bitten, and it breeds and multiplies extremely effectively, needing only a teaspoon full of standing water for its larvae to hatch.
A brilliant solution is being tested - GENETIC HACKING
In short, the modified genes affect only the female mosquitoes, rendering them flightless. The larvae hatch on the water, and the females are unable to leave, rendering them harmless to humans and leaving them to die. The males are unaffected, so they mature normally, then mate with other females to pass the genetic modification on.
It's an extremely effective way of triggering a mosquito population crash - James and his colleagues have proven in cage-based testing in Mexico that a sufficient number of genetically hacked males can completely decimate a mosquito population within a few months. The table below shows this genetic genocide in action - within 23 and 33 weeks, the genetically modified males managed to completely destroy the otherwise stable mosquito population in James' test cages.
Taking advantage of the lack of regulations in this area, Luke Alphey an ex-team member released the GM mosquitoes in 2009 killed an estimated 80% of the A. aegypti population on the Grand Cayman island in the Carribbean - a geographically isolated area.
More mutant, autocidal mosquitoes have been released in Malaysia, and the technique is reportedly going into large scale production in Brazil.
There are a number of ethical and environmental questions whether it's for better or for worse - how it will affect the food chain in the long run? What will the birds and fish that feed on mosquitoes eat instead? Will the demise of A. aegypti make way for an even nastier pest? Will their removal take away the means of pollination for certain plants? And will the genetic modification itself have unforeseen repercussions down the track?
It could very well see the extinction of the A. aegypti
Does history's greatest killer of human beings deserve a reprieve from the death penalty? What do you think?