Researchers at the University of California Irvine say they have created a mosquito incapable of transmitting malaria, an advance with the potential to change the lives of hundreds of millions in Africa and other malaria-plagued regions of the world.
The genetically altered insect, a modified version of a mosquito species known to spread malaria in India and the Middle East, could be introduced into wild mosquito populations, the scientists said. It would then reproduce, expanding its malaria-resistant genes throughout the population.
The same laboratory method used to alter this mosquito species, the scientists said, could be used on other mosquito species as well.
Nearly a million people die of malaria every year, mostly children and pregnant women in Africa; worldwide, 300 million to 500 people come down with malaria.
UCI molecular biology professor Anthony James, along with colleagues at UCI and the Pasteur Institute in Paris, engineered genes to produce antibodies in the immune system of the mosquito species Anopheles stephensi.
The antibodies kill the infectious version of the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum.
The work was based on mouse genes that produce antibodies with similar malaria-killing properties.
The study will be published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
James and his colleagues also have worked to create mosquito strains that limit the spread of dengue fever.