quote:Malaria kills nearly 1 million people a year, but it has a weakness — to infect humans, it needs mosquitoes. In a potential step toward eradicating the disease, researchers report that they have developed a genetically engineered breed of mosquito that cannot be infected by the malaria-causing parasite.
Genetically-modified mosquitoes are far from ready for use in the field, but the researchers achieved an unprecedented 100% blockage of the Plasmodium parasite, highlighting the promise of this approach, according to their study.
The team, led by entomologist Michael Riehle at the University of Arizona, created the mosquitoes by changing a single gene, one involved in the production of insulin. To test the effect of that change, researchers injected 90 of the mosquitoes with the malaria parasite. Ten days later, at a point when normal mosquitoes would have bellies full of parasites, they didn't find a single one.
quote:Despite this genetic engineering success, there are two main hurdles before such mosquitoes could be used to reduce malaria infections. First, the modified gene would have to spread throughout the entire mosquito population. Normally, this would occur only if the gene provided a great evolutionary advantage, but these malaria resistance genes don't have that effect.