Bringing science and development together through news and analysis

  • Modified mosquito is malaria-proof

Shares

Anopheles stephensi, a vector of malaria.

Mosquitoes that carry malaria can be genetically modified to prevent them from transmitting the disease, at least to mice, according to new research.

The finding — published in the 23 May issue of Nature — suggests that genetic manipulation of malaria vectors could become an important tool for halting the transmission of malaria, which kills one to three million people every year.

Junitsu Ito from the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and colleagues inserted a gene into mosquitoes that makes a molecule known to block malaria parasite development.

The molecule prevents Plasmodium, the malaria parasite, from moving from the mosquito's gut to its salivary glands. This migration is crucial, as it underpins the transmission of malaria from the blood of one person into another by a mosquito's bite. Inserted into the germ line, the gene is passed on to the mosquito's offspring.

The researchers found that transgenic mosquitoes were at least 80 per cent less effective at spreading a mouse form of malaria.

But whether the same gene will prevent transmission of human malaria remains to be seen. And even if it does, a transgenic approach to malaria control is not yet feasible, the authors warn. An inserted gene must persist in the wild mosquito population, and the risks of releasing a genetically modified, and potentially harmful organism into the environment, remain to be investigated.

Reference: Nature, 23 May 2002

Link to news and views article 'Anti-malarial mosquitoes?'
Link to paper by Junitsu Ito et al

Photo credit: WHO/TDR
Republish
We encourage you to republish this article online and in print, it’s free under our creative commons attribution license, but please follow some simple guidelines:
  1. You have to credit our authors.
  2. You have to credit SciDev.Net — where possible include our logo with a link back to the original article.
  3. You can simply run the first few lines of the article and then add: “Read the full article on SciDev.Net” containing a link back to the original article.
  4. If you want to also take images published in this story you will need to confirm with the original source if you're licensed to use them.
  5. The easiest way to get the article on your site is to embed the code below.
For more information view our media page and republishing guidelines.