Researchers from the University of California have created a new strain of mosquito that could eventually help eradicate malaria.
Using gene-editing tools, the scientists infused DNA into the germ line of the Anopheles stephensi mosquito — a leading carrier of the disease.
The gene was found to stop the transmission of malaria through 99.5% of their offspring, according to research published in the early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The U.S. scientists employed the CRISPR gene-editing tool in their task of editing the mosquitos’ gene makeup. The powerful tool allows access to a cell’s nucleus to remove DNA, replace mutated genes, or insert new ones.
“We know the gene works. The mosquitoes we created are not the final brand, but we know this technology allows us to efficiently create large populations,” said Anthony James, Distinguished Professor of molecular biology & biochemistry and microbiology and molecular genetics at the University of California.
Though preventable and curable, malaria is still considered to be a fatal disease. It’s primarily transmitted through the bite of the female Anopheles stephensi mosquito. The early symptoms of a malaria onset are fever, headache, chills and vomiting.
The WHO estimates 438,000 people have died of malaria in 2015 alone. Of 214 million cases this year — most were in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 91% of the deaths were reported.