Academic journal article Science Scope

Modified Mosquitoes Could Help Fight against Malaria

Academic journal article Science Scope

Modified Mosquitoes Could Help Fight against Malaria

Article excerpt

For the first time, malarial mosquitoes have been modified to be infertile and pass on the trait rapidly, raising the possibility of reducing the spread of disease.

A team of researchers has genetically modified Anopheles gambiae so that they carry a gene that disrupts egg production in female mosquitoes. They used a technology called "gene drive" to ensure the gene is passed down at an accelerated rate to offspring, spreading the gene through a population over time.

The mosquito species is a major carrier of dangerous malaria parasites in sub-Saharan Africa, where 90% of annual malaria deaths occur. Malaria infects more than 200 million people each year and causes more than 430,000 deaths.

Within a few years, the spread of the egg-distrupting gene could drastically reduce or eliminate local populations of the malaria-carrying mosquito species. The researchers' findings represent an important step forward in the ability to develop novel methods of vector control.

Normally, each gene variant has a 50% chance of being passed down from parents to their offspring. In the researcher's experiments with Anopheles gambiae, the gene for infertility was transmitted to more than 90% of both male and female mosquitoes' offspring.

The technique uses recessive genes, so that many mosquitoes will inherit only one copy of the gene. …

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