News / Health

    Scientists Use Genetic Technique to Control Malaria Mosquito

    Adult mosquitos with glowing eyes that indicate they have been successfully genetically transformed are seen through a fluorescence microscope at the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute's Insect Transformation Facility in Rockville, Md., June 3
    Adult mosquitos with glowing eyes that indicate they have been successfully genetically transformed are seen through a fluorescence microscope at the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute's Insect Transformation Facility in Rockville, Md., June 3
    Jessica Berman

    An international team of scientists has developed a way to genetically modify the malaria mosquito so that it would be unable to transmit the disease to humans. Researchers say the method eventually might be used to control large populations of mosquitoes by releasing a small number of modified insects into the wild that could breed the trait into ensuing generations.  

    For the past 10 years, researchers have been attempting in the laboratory to biologically alter the malaria mosquito, known as Anopheles gambiae, so it can’t breed and spread the parasitic illness, as well as several other diseases.  

    Malaria affects more than 300 million people around the world every year, killing nearly 800,000 people, most of them children.

    The goal of the latest research, according to parasitologist Andrea Crisanti of Imperial College London, is to control the female mosquito - which spreads the disease by biting humans - without having to resort to chemical pesticides, which can be harmful to people and the environment.  

    “The path that we have chosen is to develop mosquitos that are eventually resistant to malaria and they spread that resistance gene to local populations [of mosquitoes]. So, in principal, they do the job for us,” said Crisanti.

    Crisanti led a team of British, U.S. and Japanese researchers that inserted a unique segment of genetic material, or DNA, into the chromosomes of the malaria mosquito.  

    The DNA segment, known as a “selfish gene,” produces an enzyme that inactivates specific genes and replaces them with copies of itself.

    In laboratory experiments, the researchers mated a small number of male mosquitoes carrying the selfish gene with female insects bred to carry a fluorescence gene that made them glow green for easy identification.

    At the start of the experiment, 99 percent of the mosquitoes had the green tag. Just one percent had the selfish gene.

    Within a dozen generations, Crisanti said, more than half of the Anopheles mosquitoes lacked the green tag, after acquiring the male mosquitoes’ selfish gene.

    “So in this way, generation after generation of the progeny carries the genetic modification and this has increased exponentially. And in a span of 12 generations, which is more or less the time span of the rainy season of a malaria endemic country.”

    The results are what are called a proof of principle - scientists have showed it is possible to use genetic engineering to control populations of malaria mosquitoes.

    Previous control efforts have involved sterilizing male mosquitoes with radiation and releasing millions of them to mate with females in the wild so they cannot produce fertile offspring. But they have not worked very well. Experts say the female Anopheles prefers to breed with wild male mosquitoes.

    Chrisanti said the research team’s goal now is to work on specific Anopholes genes that are essential to its transmission of the malaria parasite.  The team already has identified 10 candidate genes, including an odor-recognition gene that helps mosquitoes locate their human hosts, and a gene that permits the malaria parasite to enter the mosquito’s salivary gland.

    An article on genetic manipulation of the Anopheles mosquito for malaria control is published this week in the journal Nature.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Goodbye Ketchup, Hello Sriracha!

    How immigrants are triggering a great transformation in American cuisine

    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.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora