A New Attack on Malaria?
by Howard Fienberg
Malaria kills anywhere from 1 to 3 million people a year, almost all in
Recently, researchers genetically engineered a mosquito that is 80 percent less likely to pass on malaria to its victims. Previously, the spread of malaria could be countered only by using either drugs or pesticides. Mosquitoes can develop immunity to both, and the most effective kinds of pesticides (like DDT) make many governments squeamish.
Ito and his co-authors report that they added a gene to mosquitoes which prohibits malaria transmission from the point where a mosquito takes in its blood meal to where it ordinarily transfers the disease to its next host.
Released into the wild, such mosquitoes would be unable to transmit
malaria and could thus stop epidemics. Nevertheless, the researchers find
that the global problem of malaria has not been solved just yet. The
unaltered mosquito selected for the experiments is native to
Further testing will discover if the inserted gene will work against the human form of malaria or if a similar gene could be inserted with that form in mind.
Other genes could be added which would reduce the likelihood of transmission even further. Large, controlled trials in the field will be necessary to determine if the inserted genes will spread to the regular population of mosquitoes and survive.
Junitsu Ito et al., "Transgenic
Anopheline Mosquitoes Impaired in Transmission of a Malaria Parasite,"
in Nature (No. 6887),
See the original at http://www.americanenterprise.org/issues/articleID.17453/article_detail.asp
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