Scientists at the University of California, Irvine, have developed a new strain of mosquito that not only resists infection with the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum but also transmits that resistance to 99.5 percent of its offspring—far more than the half of its progeny that would receive the genes through standard Mendelian inheritance. The remarkably high rate of inheritance is the result of novel “gene-drive” technology.
The mosquito strain, belonging toAnopheles stephensi, a species known to transmit malaria throughout Asia, was genetically modified to carry a set of parasite-resistance genes as well as a unique gene-drive system, which effectively forced the transmission of the resistance genes into the genomes of engineered-mosquito offspring.
The new study, reported online November 23, 2015, in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first in which scientists have leveraged the power of gene-drive technology to develop and breed malaria-resistant mosquitoes. The experiments revealed potentially widespread effects, with resistance genes being transmitted through multiple generations. Experts estimated that the strain of engineered mosquitoes, if released into the environment, could overtake a wild population within several months.
Mosquitoes engineered with gene-drive technology could prove critical to malaria control. Nearly half the world’s human population is at risk of the disease, according to the World Health Organization. Malaria prevention has relied primarily on vector (mosquito) control interventions, including insecticide-treated nets and indoor insecticide spraying. The effectiveness of those interventions has been limited, however, by the emergence of insecticide-resistant mosquitoes.
If you ask me, I call this an Invention…
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