Genetically altered mosquitoes could end malaria

A group of researchers at the University of California-Davis’ medical-science complex has genetically altered mosquitoes to build up their resistance to the parasite that causes malaria with hopes to someday have them supplant natural mosquitoes.

The development of mosquitoes that are malaria-proof was listed in Time magazine as one of the 50 best inventions of 2010 and was the number one spot in the health and medicine category. Malaria sickens an estimated 250 million people annually in the world’s subtropical and tropical regions, the Seattle Times reports.

“Our hope is to release them and drive the gene through the population,” Shirley Luckhart, professor and leader in the joint effort between scientists at UC David and the University of Arizona, said, according to the Seattle Times. “(But) we’re not going to introduce something into natural conditions until we fully understand how it works. We also want to increase the chances of success.”

The project was funded by the National Institutes of Health in 2008. The scientists believe that by reducing the number of malaria-carrying mosquitoes in the wild, the health of millions and the economy of nations can be highly improved.

After altering the mosquitoes at the University of Arizona, UC Davis conducted infection studies and found a vastly decreased number of parasites in the altered mosquitoes and occasionally none at all.

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