Scientists Have Created a Line of Malaria-Blocking Mosquitoes

Fight fire with fire or in this case, fight malaria with malaria. Scientists at the University of California have created a new strain of mosquitoes that blocks the transmission of malaria through 99.5% of their offspring.

In many parts of the world mosquitoes are a very real threat to life and have claimed the top spot as the world’s deadliest creature, accounting for 750,000 deaths annually.

The anti-malaria line of mosquitoes was created using an editing technique by researchers that involved inserting a DNA element into their germ line, resulting in a gene preventing the transmission of malaria to offspring.

“This opens up the real promise that this technique can be adapted for eliminating malaria,” said Anthony James, distinguished Professor of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry at UC Irvine.

James and his associates have been working on engineering anti-disease mosquitoes for nearly 20 years and have previously tested anti-dengue model mosquitoes in cage trials in Mexico. The CRISPR gene-editing tool allows researchers access to a cell’s nucleus to remove DNA, and then replace mutated genes or insert new ones. “We know the gene works. The mosquitoes we created are not the final brand, but we know this technology allows us to efficiently create large populations,” added James.

Further testing will be needed on the efficiency of the antibodies, but scientists are hopeful that field studies are around the corner. Considering that 40% of the world’s population is at risk for mosquito-transmitted malaria, those field tests can’t arrive soon enough.

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