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Science AMA Series: Zika! Malaria! Chikungunya! What do we need to know about these mosquito-borne diseases and what can be done about them? Ask us anything!
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Hi Reddit! We are writers for Science News (https://www.sciencenews.org/), a publication of the Society for Science and the Public (https://www.societyforscience.org/). With the recent spread of Zika, there have been concerns about the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. What can be done? What answers can science provide us? Together, we have written extensively on Zika, gene drives, genetically engineered mosquitoes, and general mosquito biology. Ask us anything! I’m Meghan Rosen, and I’m the general assignment reporter at Science News. It’s a grab bag beat that I love because I’m always learning about something new (from disaster robots to lead poisoning to a new form of carbon that glows in the dark). This year I’ve been covering the Zika virus outbreak that emerged in Brazil in 2015, and may be to blame for the country’s recent surge in microcephaly cases. I have a Ph.D. in molecular biology and biochemistry (with an emphasis in biotechnology) from UC Davis, and graduated from UC Santa Cruz’s Science Communication program in 2012. (https://www.sciencenews.org/article/rapid-spread-zika-virus-americas-raises-alarm?mode=pick&context=169&tgt=nr) I’m Tina Saey, the molecular biology writer at Science News. I cover a broad range of topics from viruses to human evolutionary history, with occasional forays into penguin tongues and water bear survival tactics. Basically, if it has DNA I will write about it. But don’t worry, red blood cells and non-DNA-based extraterrestrial life, I’ve got you covered, too. One of the hottest topics on my beat has been the gene-editing tool called CRISPR/Cas9 and its scientific, medical and ethical implications. Pertinent to this discussion is an application of CRISPR called gene drives. Scientists hope to eliminate mosquito-borne diseases and invasive species, but worry about unforeseen consequences (such as causing the extinction of entire species) of the technology. (https://www.sciencenews.org/article/gene-drives-spread-their-wings) I’m Susan Milius, and I write about creatures great and small, and even photosynthetic, for Science News. I’m aghast at the number of years I just slapped mosquitoes without even wondering which of several thousand species, quite diverse in their tastes, I had just smeared on the wall. (Some are blue. Some hate the outdoors as much as any human couch potato. Some don’t even drink blood.) Now those distinctions explain why some major disease-carrying mosquitoes just laugh at our attempts to control them. It took me a bit of exploring other kinds of journalism to realize that after double-majoring in biology and English, I could get a job writing in English about biology. It’s a wonderful life, even with mosquitoes in it. We’ll be back at 2 pm EST (11 am PST, 7 pm UTC) to answer your questions, ask us anything!* EDIT: What great questions! It’s our time to leave, but we’ll be checking in throughout the day to see if there are any more questions. Thanks for having us!