have an antiparasitic protein (green)
that wild insects (middle) lack.
© J. Ito and A. Ghosh
Scientists have developed genetically modified mosquitoes that are unable to transmit malaria. This shows real potential for eliminating malaria bearing mosquitoes, and eliminating malaria, without the use of poisonous insecticides
Scientists believe that genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes could become the latest method of targeting the spread of the deadly disease malaria.
The GM strain of malaria-resistant mosquitoes outcompete their natural counterparts when fed malaria-infected blood, researchers from the John Hopkins University in Baltimore claim.
As such they believe that introducing GM mosquitoes (transgenic) into the environment could help to eventually replace natural mosquitoes.
There are still a number of questions and controversies to be addressed before releasing gm mosquitoes into the wild, but this has huge potential for positive impact on the health and economy of many countries around the world, including Ghana.
Researchers led by Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena at the Malaria Research Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland created genetically modified mosquitoes by giving them a gene that made it impossible for them to pass on the plasmodium parasite that causes malaria.
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Over time, the researchers found that the GM mosquitoes slowly became the majority, reaching 70% in nine generations.
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The finding was hailed as welcome proof that GM mosquitoes, made with cheap laboratory techniques, could ultimately have a greater impact on malaria than chemical sprays and other treatments.
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Trials in sub-Saharan Africa, where malaria claims the life of a child every 30 seconds, could be conducted within five years, but scientists will first have to prove as far as possible that the resistance genes will not trigger a more aggressive form of malaria, or spread to other insects.
At a glance
Malaria kills more than 1 million people a year
90% of malaria deaths occur among young children in sub-Saharan Africa
The disease costs Africa $12bn (£6.2bn) in lost GDP and consumes 40% of public health spending
60% of malaria deaths strike the poorest 20% of the global population
71% of all deaths from malaria are in the under-fives
Children can die within 48 hours after the first symptoms appear