Scientists have bred mosquitoes which are unable to infect people with the malaria parasite. They hope that such populations of malaria-free mosquitoes can enter the ecosystem and help to curb the population of malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
Two research teams, based at the University of California and the Pasteur Institute in Paris, have studied and worked on a type of mosquito known for carrying the malaria parasite, according to a UCI research brief. The scientists were able to impair the development of the malaria parasite through genetic engineering. This means that the mosquitoes are unable to transmit the disease through their bites.
The mosquitoes genetically adapted were a species called Anopheles stephensi. This particular mosquito is a major source of malaria in India and the Middle East and carries the malaria parasite (of the genus Plasmodium).
For the research, the Times of India notes, certain mice, when infected with the human form of malaria, are able to create antibodies that kill the parasite. By studying the mouse immune-system response, and by the engineering genes, the scientists were able to produce the same response in mosquitoes. For the mosquitoes with the transferred genes, the parasite was rendered harmless.
Further work is required to determine if the mosquitoes can breed and pass on the immunity. In addition, the scientists led by Anthony James, UCI Professor of microbiology & molecular genetics, aim to carry out similar experiments in relation to dengue fever.
The research paper was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The reference is:
A.T.Isaacs et al. PNAS Plus: Transgenic Anopheles stephensi coexpressing single-chain antibodies resist Plasmodium falciparum development. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012.