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GM Mosquito-Gene Drive Combo Could Help Eliminate Malaria

October 26, 2022

Scientists have augmented a midgut gene of the Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes, one of the main malaria vectors, to slow the growth of malaria-causing parasites. With the genetic modification, the parasites are unlikely to reach the mosquitoes' salivary glands and be passed on to humans when a mosquito bites. In addition, it shortens the mosquito's lifespan thereby providing more opportunities to block malaria transmission between mosquitoes and humans.

Modeling the spread of this modification using a large-scale agent-based model of malaria epidemiology reveals that it can break the cycle of disease transmission across a range of transmission intensities.

The genetically modified (GM) mosquito was designed to be combined with gene drive technology to spread the modification effectively. Scientists have developed two separate but compatible strains of GM mosquitoes. One with anti-parasite modification and one with the gene drive. Tests will be conducted using the anti-parasite modification alone first, and additional tests with the gene drive will be done if the former is proven effective.

If the combo is successful and found to be safe in real-world settings, it is potentially a powerful tool to eliminate malaria considering that the existing conventional methods to control and prevent the disease are becoming less effective due to the insecticide and drug resistance.

Read more from Science Advances and Outlook.

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