The battle against malaria and dengue fever is changing with genetically modified mosquitoes.
Researchers at University of California Irvine have taken an antibody phenomena found in mice and discovered a way to put it in mosquitoes. This modification of the immune system protein, Re12, has created a new breed of mosquitoes, one with the ability to delete the malaria parasite. The modified mosquitoes release the antibodies that attack the malaria parasite and effectively deletes it, thereby stopping the spread of it to humans.
With more than 40% of the world’s population living in areas susceptible to contracting malaria and 300 – 500 million cases of malaria each year, this could be a real game changer.
These scientist’s have created the first genetically modified mosquito that could potentially work in the wild, “real life” situation, without damaging the mosquitoes themselves. These modifications are also able to be passed down from generation to generation. They used this model on the Anopheles stephensi mosquito but they say that the same thing will work on several different mosquito types that carry the Plasmodium falciparum parasite.
There’s also been some research by Anthony James, a professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at UCI on genetically modified mosquitoes in regards to dengue fever prevention. James added a virus into the mosquitoes that made the dengue strain last for less periods of time within the mosquitoes themselves, therefore limiting the risk of infection. James was also a part of the research on modified mosquitoes for malaria prevention.
The concerns that are had with introducing these mutant mosquitoes into the population is whether or not they will be able to breed enough to take over the current mosquito population. There also needs to be assurance that releasing these modified mosquitoes would be completely safe and fail proof. More research is definitely needed, but the prospects seem great.