Empowering Mosquitos to Fight Malaria

By Akari Miki

            Researchers at Johns Hopkins University are one step closer to ending the worldwide epidemic of malaria. They genetically engineered Anopheles mosquitos, common carriers of the malaria-causing parasite Plasmodium, to have disease-fighting microbiota, and the resistance to the parasite lasted for seven years. The scientists caged the genetically modified mosquitos and their wild-type counterparts in equal numbers, assessing their matings for more than ten generations. In each generation, ninety percent of the offspring inherited resistance to Plasmodium. More interestingly, in a different experiment that caged genetically modified mosquitos with the wildtype ones in a 1:9 ratio, the trait dominated after a couple generations. Furthermore, the genetically modified mosquitos preferred to mate with the wild type and vice versa, and these mating preferences helped propagate the trait. These experiments in the laboratory demonstrated that the genetically modified mosquitos are capable of mating with the wild population, so the next step would be to perform the experiments again in a natural setting. Nevertheless, the possibility of breeding mosquitos resistant to malaria-causing parasite is promising, as it could protect humans from transmission.

 

NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (2017, September 28). Disease resistance successfully spread from modified to wild mosquitoes: Mating of genetically modified species. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 8, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170928145418.htm