Sperm-less mosquitoes could slow malaria

In an effort to potentially control the population of malaria-spreading mosquitoes, scientists have recently developed male mosquitoes that do not produce sperm.

In a British and Italian study that appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, researchers genetically altered male mosquitoes to not make sperm, although they still produce seminal fluid and mate, according to the L.A. Times.

Females that mated with the genetically altered males produced sterile eggs that did not hatch. Those females were then effectively removed from the breeding population because they failed to mate again, although the scientists pointed out that they have yet to prove the females’ decision is entirely final.

The mosquitoes’ monogamy would mean the technique could be even more effective on the mosquito population than it has been on the fruit fly population, whose females begin mating again after their sperm supply runs out.

Spermless males may have an advantage over their natural competitors because of the energy it takes to produce sperm. They may, according to the authors, be in better shape than those who are fertile, the L.A. Times reports.

The largest drawback to the potential method would be the cost to consistently raise and release sterile mosquitoes into the wild. Scientists are currently discussing the possibility of genetically altering a mosquito’s DNA so that it will actively destroy the genes in its offspring that allow the malaria parasite to reach humans. Such an approach would be self-sustaining.