Bill Gates in front of blurry crowd

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Malaria is back—and Bill Gates is getting the blame

Conspiracy theorists say his genetically modified mosquitos are spreading the disease.

 

Mikael Thalen

Tech

Conspiracy theorists are blaming billionaire Bill Gates for a small number of malaria cases in the U.S.

The infections, four of which originated in Florida and one in Texas, represent the first cases of the disease to be detected domestically in two decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While those sickened are believed to have been bitten by mosquitos in the U.S., many infections occur overseas and are caught when travelers return home. But the handful of cases has conspiracy theorists convinced that Gates, who has championed mosquitos genetically modified to not spread such diseases, is entirely to blame.

The billionaire’s name has since become a trending topic on Twitter, where primarily right-wing users are amplifying the claim.

“It must be a coincidence that from 2003-2023 there wasn’t one case of Malaria spread by mosquitos…and along comes a company funded by Bill Gates… to solve a problem that didn’t exist… and suddenly in the exact places where he releases mosquitos… there’s an outbreak of Malaria?” conspiracy theorist Liz Churchill wrote.

Prominent conspiracy theorist Luke Rudkowski made similar remarks, again insinuating that Gates and the genetically-modified mosquitos were at fault for the infections.

So let me get this straight,” he wrote. “Bill Gates has been releasing GMO mosquitoes in Florida and Texas and now Florida and Texas for the first time in 20 years have mosquitoes that give people malaria??? Is that right?”

Supporters of former President Donald Trump even used the story to attack Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R), who is planning to run against Trump in the 2024 presidential election.

DC_Draino, the username of one of Twitter’s most prolific spreaders of right-wing propaganda, questioned whether DeSantis had colluded with Gates.

“I’d say it’s time for Gov. DeDantis to announce his plan to tackle the resurgence of Malaria in Florida,” he wrote. “Did he allow Bill Gates’ GMO mosquitoes in the state? What is he doing to hold people accountable? As a Florida resident, this is a serious issue we’re quite concerned with.”

Yet there are countless problems with the claims being spread by conspiracy theorists. For starters, as now noted in a context disclaimer on many of the conspiratorial tweets, only female mosquitos can bite and spread disease. All of the genetically-modified mosquitos part of the initiative funded by Gates are male.

Secondly, none of the mosquitos were released in Texas. And the mosquitos that were released in Florida were dropped off in Monroe County, more than 160 miles away from the small cluster of four infections. The only other state where the program released mosquitos was California.

In other words, it is literally impossible for the so-called GMO mosquitos to carry or spread malaria. Unfortunately, the claim has already been cemented in conspiratorial circles and will undoubtedly continue to be a talking point for right-leaning users.

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