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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid