News / Science & Technology

Anti-Malaria Plan Could Wipe Out Mosquitoes Without Insecticides

Scientists have engineered mosquitoes that produce almost exclusively male offspring. (Sinclair Stammers)
Scientists have engineered mosquitoes that produce almost exclusively male offspring. (Sinclair Stammers)
A new way to fight malaria aims to eliminate the female mosquitoes that spread the deadly disease.

Scientists have developed mosquitoes that produce almost exclusively male offspring.

Females are the ones that bite. And they are the ones that produce more mosquitoes. The researchers say their technique could wipe out mosquito populations in a few months, without the use of insecticides.

World’s biggest killers

“Mosquitoes have been labeled as the most virulent animal in the world,” said Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. “More people die of mosquito-transmitted infections than they do of almost any other type of illness.”

Spraying insecticides is one of the most effective ways to control them, but spraying comes with downsides. It can kill bees and other good insects, and cause environmental damage. And mosquitoes eventually develop resistance to the pesticide.

So Imperial College London researcher Nikolai Windbichler and colleagues are trying a different approach. “We found an Achilles’ heel of these mosquitoes,” he said.

The insects have around 400 copies of a particular gene on the X chromosome. That’s the chromosome that carries the traits making the insects female.

Gene shredder

A creature called a slime mold produces a protein that cuts that gene in one specific place.

The Imperial College London team introduced that slime mold protein into mosquitoes using genetic engineering.

It is designed to turn on when the mosquitoes make sperm. When it does, it cuts the X chromosome in 400 places.

“You can imagine, that’s pretty bad for a chromosome,” Windbichler said. “It gets destroyed. It cannot be passed on to the next generation.”

That leaves only male offspring. And those offspring also would only produce male offspring. Eventually the population would crash.

More Tests Needed

The research is published in Nature Communications.

They have more tests to do to make sure the method is safe and effective. But Windbichler says it beats the alternative.

“If you compare what we are doing to, for example, insecticides, which target any insect species out there, our method is very specific,” Windbichler said. “There may be hundreds of mosquito species in the environment, but our method really only would target that one.”

Baylor’s Peter Hotez, who was not involved in the research, calls it an interesting and exciting finding. But, he added, “It’s still a very early stage.”

Meanwhile, he says, it will take more than just designer mosquitoes to beat malaria.

New drugs and vaccines will be needed, along with bed nets and clearing their breeding grounds with good, old-fashioned puddle-draining.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid