Altered mosquitoes may benefit efforts against malaria

MDG leaders to discuss progress against malaria
MDG leaders to discuss progress against malaria | Courtesy of
Altering mosquitoes that are infected with malaria so that they are infertile may stop the parasitic trait from passing on to the next generation of mosquitoes, potentially eliminating malaria.

Scientists from Imperial College London remain hopeful that this discovery could mark the turning point in the battle against malaria. This is the first time in scientific history that mosquitoes with malaria have been altered so that they are infertile. Genetically modifying the mosquitoes so that they are able to pass on the infertility trait could make the disease decline over time.

The main carrier of malaria is Anopheles gambiae, a species of mosquitoes. They are primarily located in sub-Saharan Africa, which is also where there is a 90 percent of malaria deaths happen every year. Every year, there are over 200 million people who contract malaria infections. Over 430,000 of these people die each year.

"The field has been trying to tackle malaria for more than 100 years,” Andrea Crisanti, professor from Imperial's Department of Life Sciences and co-author of the study, said. “If successful, this technology has the potential to substantially reduce the transmission of malaria.”

Unfortunately, this new discovery will take time to implement.

"As with any new technology, there are many more steps we will go through to test and ensure the safety of the approach we are pursuing,” Austin Burt, professor from Imperial's Department of Life Sciences, said. “It will be at least 10 more years before gene drive malaria mosquitoes could be a working intervention.”

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Imperial College London

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