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

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid