Two teams of biologists from the University of California have created a breed of mosquito that they believe will tackle malaria–causing mosquitoes. The genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes have been engineered to carry two ingenious genetic modifications.
The first would be a set of anti–malarial genes that would inhibit malarial parasites harboured by mosquitoes. These genes would render mosquitoes be resistant to the parasite because of which, they will not be able to spread malaria. The second would be a set of genetic elements known as gene drive that will propel malaria–resistance genes throughout the natural mosquito population.
The genes would work whenever a malaria–resistant male mosquito mates with a wild female mosquito and transfer the malaria resistant gene from her male counterpart. Scientists hope that these genes will spread quickly and would take over a wild mosquito population in as few as 10 generations or a single season. The anti–malarial antibody genes were developed by a group of biologists led by Anthony A. James whereas the gene drive was developed by a group led by Valentino M. Gantz and Ethan Bier. Scientists now, plan to refine mosquitoes’ genetics and conduct trials in cages.