Research: Scientists Modify Mosquitoes That Can’t Spread Malaria

According to a recent research, scientists have found a way to engineer mosquitoes that can't spread malaria. Read on.

Navya Kharbanda
Written by: Navya KharbandaUpdated at: Oct 07, 2022 22:12 IST
Research: Scientists Modify Mosquitoes That Can’t Spread Malaria

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According to a research, scientists have found a way to genetically engineer mosquitoes with the capability to slow down the multiplication of malaria-causing parasites in their gut. This is an advance study, that can help in preventing the infecting of the disease in humans. The disease spreads in people because of a female mosquito when it bites someone infected with the malaria parasite. The parasite grows into the next stage in the mosquito’s gut and transports to its salivary glands, to infect the next human it bites.

These modified mosquitoes produce compounds which interfere in the growth of malaria-causing parasites, which are then not able to reach the mosquitoes’ salivary glands and be passed on in a bite before the insects are dead. The team of researchers from the Institute for Disease Modeling at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have created a model which can analyse the effect of such changes if used in various African settings. They also found that the modification of these mosquitoes could be helpful even in locations where the transmission rate is high.

The model was described in a paper published in Science Advances journal on September 21, and has been shown to significantly lower the likelihood of malaria transmission in a lab setting. If it proves to be successful in the real world, then it can be a powerful new tool to eradicate malaria. Researchers from the Transmission: Zero team at Imperial College London, UK, genetically engineered the major malaria-carrying species of mosquito in sub-Saharan Africa, Anopheles gambiae, in a way that the antimicrobial peptides were produced by mosquitoes in its gut after it sucked on blood. 

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Co-first author of the study, Tibebu Habtewold, said, "We need to develop innovative new tools because mosquitoes and the parasites they carry are becoming resistant to available interventions such as insecticides and treatments, and funding has plateaued." Study co-first author, Astrid Hoermann, said, "Delaying the parasite's growth in the mosquito has opened many more opportunities to block malaria transmission from mosquitoes to humans."

Co-lead author of the study, Professor George Christophides, said, "Gene drive is one such powerful weapon that in combination with drugs, vaccines and mosquito control can help stop the spread of malaria and save human lives." Gene drive can be engineered in mosquitoes that would make the anti-parasite genetic modification to be inherited on preference, making it transmit more in any natural populations.