Mad Scientist Ethics

It is comforting to know that all mad scientists aren’t hell-bent on world domination. Apparently some Japanese mad scientists are dedicated instead to world vaccination, because, as reported in the April issue of “Insect Molecular Biology”, they have figured out how to make mosquitoes into itty-bitty flying syringes full of vaccine.

In the Japanese study, published Creative researchers added an antigen (a compound that triggers an immune response) to the protein mix in a mosquito’s saliva. Now, in theory at least, when the new, improved mosquitoes bite, instead of infecting their human meals with yellow fever or malaria, they will be inoculating them against those or other diseases.

Cool! Also completely unethical, as it is a violation of medical ethics to vaccinate human beings without informed consent. If someone can give consent, presumably they can also be vaccinated the old-fashioned, no-bug-bite-required way. Then there’s the nagging problem of controlling how many bites from a vaccinating mosquito each subject would get. The Journal notesnotes that there is a significant variation in the number of mosquito bites one person receives compared to the next, so people exposed to the mosquitoes would get very different dose levels of vaccine. Molecular biologist Prof. Robert Sinden of Imperial College London is quoted as being quite certain that no regulatory agency would sign off releasing the insects.

Other than that, it’s a brilliant plan! Actually, there is a potential use for the mosquito vaccine: if one of the bad and scientists, seeking world domination, releases a virus that can only be stopped by flooding the world with tiny little flying syringes. Then the lack of informed consent would be over-balanced by the need to save lives, and the insect-inoculations would pass utilitarian muster. The Evil Mad Scientist’s plot would be foiled by the Good Mad Scientist’s swarm of genetically-altered mosquitoes!

I’m betting this movie, starring Bruce Boxleitner and Stephen Baldwin, is on the Sony Channel by this summer.

[Thanks to Tim Levier for the tip.]

5 thoughts on “Mad Scientist Ethics

  1. Pingback: Valuable Internet Information » Mad Scientist Ethics « Ethics Alarms

    • I generally agree with that, Jeff, though there is the ethical question of whether it is ethical to use limited resources to devise technology that can’t be used ethically at all, however cool it may be.

  2. Neat. A story from Japan that does not solve a problem with a robot.
    Unethical yes, but maybe we soon will see Godzilla Vs. Mosquitra.

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