In South America, Africa, and Asia, insect-borne disease remains an insidious large-scale killer. Even in the United States, recent outbreaks of diseases like the mosquito-transmitted West Nile Virus have shown that no country, however wealthy, is impervious to the threat. The briefest list of diseases that humans contract from insects would include such storied terrors as malaria, Dengue fever, West Nile Virus, Yellow Fever, and various forms of brain-swelling encephalitis. Among these, malaria alone saw 275 million new cases last year, with its effects costing the continent of Africa $12 billion every year in GDP. Not a cost that it can afford.
But scientists, governments, and humanitarian groups waging war against these conditions are presently seeing powerful new weapons added to their arsenals. Over the past decade, experiments have been carried out with an insect-killing paint called Inesfly. Manufactured by the small Spanish company Inesba, the paint has yet to be fully approved by the World Health Organization, but has proven remarkably effective in field tests, reducing infestation rates in the villages where it was applied by up to 90 percent, lasting far longer than normal insecticide spray treatments and posing a smaller risk to human inhabitants. Such stats make for optimism, but Africa is also experimenting with the absolute vanguard in insect-fighting technology. Intellectual Ventures Labs has developed an anti-mosquito “Photonic Fence”, which uses extremely advanced motion detection technology to identify mosquitoes and shoot them out of the air with lasers. Yes, you heard right, lasers. So advanced is the screening system developed by the Bellevue, Washington lab that it can even identify beneficial bugs and leave them unmolested as it zaps the treacherous culicidae. It’s a glimpse of a whole new world.