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  • Subject area(s): Science
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  • Published on: 15th October 2019
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Wolbachia is becoming a widespread epidemic throughout roughly 60% of bugs, such as mosquitos and fruit flies. Wolbachia is one of the world’s most common parasitic microbes that affects reproduction with arthropods. Wolbachia is spread throughout bug populations from mother to offspring by infected eggs, although males will not transmit Wolbachia to offsprings or hosts. There are also four reproductive strategies for Wolbachia, including; Feminization, Parthenogenesis, Cytoplasmic Incompatibility and Male Killing. Apart from Wolbachia causing bacterial diseases in bugs, it can also do good to the human population, such as it being used to fight off other diseases like Zika and the Dengue fever.

Wolbachia has evolved four main strategies of manipulating host reproductive biology in order to increase its own transmission. They include Feminization, Parthenogenesis, Cytoplasmic Incompatibility and Male Killing. Feminization is when infected male off springs begin to develop as females, hence turing genetically male offsprings into females. Parthenogenesis is females creating offsprings without the need of males, with the help of Wolbachia. Wolbachia aids in parthenogenesis because of  parthenogenesis induction, it  doubles the potential transmission of Wolbachia to the next generation, because all the offsprings are female. The next strategy is Cytoplasmic Incompatibility, which is when the sperm and the egg cell are not compatible enough for them to make an offspring. Lastly, Male Killing happens when infected males die during larval development, which increases the rate of born, infected, females.

A common question about Wolbachia is: “Is it possible to have a bacterial infection that selectively kills males?” and the answer is yes! One of Wolbachia main qualities is Male Killing. Wolbachia attacks offspring with XY chromosomes during larval development, although it may seem odd, it is entirely possible. Another common question is: “How has this strange biology propagated throughout the species?” Wolbachia has been spread from parent to offspring through mosquitos and other arthropods. About 60% of insects carry Wolbachia, including butterflies and dragon flies. It cannot be passed to humans. The last common question is: “The illness does not respond to any known treatments. As biologists, how might you stop the spread of this disease?” As biologists, we are aware of what Wolbachia is affecting and who. So based on that we would not want to stop the spread of the disease because Wolbachia in insects is causing much more positive effects on human populations than it is negative ones. Either way though, it looks as if Wolbachia cannot be contained.

The solution to stop Wolbachia is to not! Wolbachia causes no harm to human or animals and has been studied for many years. Wolbachia is safe for humans, animals and the environment. It is a naturally occurring bacterium already found in the environment and in many insects. Humans have been exposed to Wolbachia for thousands of years. Wolbachia infected insects are immensely common in the environment and are constantly, naturally infecting a large array of insects from pests of stored food products to even mosquitos, insects that bite humans.  Up-to-date, there is no evidence proving that Wolbachia has caused any harm to humans. And that includes any skin contact from the insects or Wolbachia-infected food products. As part of a project from the School of Biological Sciences, in Australia, “human volunteers have been providing blood meals to Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes by using their own legs or arms, receiving thousands of bites without adverse consequences. This number is far higher than the number of potential bites people in the release areas would receive following the release of Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes.” (Jean Popovici, Nov 2010) Thus proving the idea that Wolbachia-infected insects need no punishment and should not be stopped, or try to be stopped.

In conclusion, Wolbachia is a genus of bacteria which infects arthropod species, including a high proportion of insects, as well as some nematodes. It is a bacterial disease in which is spread through insects by Feminization, Parthenogenesis, Cytoplasmic Incompatibility and Male Killing. It is a harmless disease that is not only causing no trouble for humans, but is actually helping. Infected mosquitoes with Wolbachia are unable to transmit diseases such and Dengue Fever and Zika. That causes on epidemic to end two major pandemics.

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