SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2016

Study eliminates female malaria-carrying mosquitoes

Scientists recently discovered a new approach to eradicating malaria through a study that modified mosquitoes to produce sperm that will only create males.

The study, which was published in Nature Communications, successfully created a fully fertile strain of Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes that produced 95 percent male offspring, using a method that distorts the sex ratio of the species so that it no longer produces females that bite and spread malaria to humans.

Theoretically, if the experiments can be replicated in the wild, the population of malaria-carrying mosquitoes could crash.

Global efforts to reduce malaria mortality rates have grown by 42 percent since the year 2000. The disease is a major threat in sub-Saharan African regions. More than 3.4 billion people are at risk for contracting the disease, which kills an estimated 627,000 people per year, according to the World Health Organization.

The study was performed by Imperial College London and led by Professor Andrea Crisanti.

"Malaria is debilitating and often fatal and we need to find new ways of tackling it," Crisanti said. "We think our innovative approach is a huge step forward. For the very first time, we have been able to inhibit the production of female offspring in the laboratory and this provides a new means to eliminate the disease."

Researchers said that the new approach could help effectively eliminate malaria from entire regions.