Scientists in University of California create Malaria-Blocking Mosquitoes

Malaria is a life-threatening blood disease caused by parasites and is transmitted to humans by the Anopheles mosquito. Once bitten, parasites multiply in the host’s liver before infecting and destroying red blood cells.

Scientists in the U.S say that they’ve generated a new strain of mosquito that could help eliminate malaria.

The University of California researchers used a gene editing method to incorporate DNA into the germ line of the Anopheles stephensi mosquito.

According to a statement on the University of California’s website, they found the gene terminated the transmission of malaria through 99.5% of their offspring.

As stated by Anthony James, Distinguished Professor of molecular biology & biochemistry and microbiology genetics at University of California’s Irvine campus, “This opens up the real promise that this technique can be adapted for eliminating malaria.”

Scientists used the CRISPR gene – editing tool to modify the genetic make up of the mosquitoes, which allows entry to a cell’s nucleus to remove DNA, substitute mutated genes, or place a new ones.

Additional testing and field studies are required, but as per the scientists this is a “significant first step”.

“We know the gene works. The mosquitoes we created are not the final brand, but we know this technology allows us to efficiently create large populations,” James said.

According to the World Health Organization in year 2015, some 438,000 people are estimated to have died of malaria. Of 214 million cases this year, most were in Sub – Saharan Africa.

Early signs of malaria include fever, headache, chills and vomiting. If not treated within 24 hours, it can lead to critical illness and death.

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