Scientists at the University of California have produced a new breed of mosquitoes that cannot transmit malaria. The lead scientist, Anthony James, is hopeful that genetically engineered insects will help eradicate the parasite responsible for the fatal blood disease.
James said the new model of mosquitoes is the first of its kind, which is genetically modified, can breed in the wild, and can be transferred through generations without affecting their fitness. They produce antibodies that render the malarial parasite harmless to others. Hence they cannot transmit the disease through bites.
It was observed from mouse studies that animals infected with human form of malaria created antibodies that killed the parasite. By engineering genes that trigger the same immune-system response in mosquitoes, scientists were able to neutralize the parasite.
A major advantage of this method is that it can be replicated in different types of mosquitoes including those in Africa that carry and transmit the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. The study results appear this week in the online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
More than 40 percent of the world's population lives in areas susceptible to contracting malaria. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 300 million - 500 million cases of malaria occur each year. Nearly a million people including infants, young children and pregnant women, most of them in Africa, die annually from the disease.
by RTT Staff Writer
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