Scientists of the Imperial College London developed a method to prevent the spreading of malaria. They did this by adapting the genetic material of Anopheles gambiae, one of the malaria-spreading mosquito species. The researchers published their findings in Nature Biotechnology.
Malaria is a parasitic disease causing more than 430 thousand annual deaths. More than 200 million people, predominantly Africans, are infected with malaria every year. Although the disease is being combatted for over a century, until now the medical world depended on the distribution of insecticides and bed nets. Although these methods are effective, they are relatively expensive and challenging to distribute. Until now, interventions in the scope of mosquito populations were impossible.
Using the CRISPR/Cas9 endonuclease method, Hammond and colleagues adapted the genetic material of Anopheles gambiae, one of the eight hundred African mosquito species and an important malaria spreading insect. They introduced a recessive mutation in three different genes responsible for egg production. Due to the recessive nature of the mutation, many mosquitoes could inherit it, rendering mosquitoes with two copies of the gene infertile. Once applied in nature, the intervention reduces or eliminates local mosquito populations spreading malaria.
The researchers plan to improve the expression of the introduced mutations and select other usable genes. They emphasise that their technique has yet to be tested in terms of safety and expect it takes at least ten years before it can be applied. Until that time, they hope to add to the body of knowledge regarding the biological knowledghe in the field of malaria.
Source: Nature Biotechnology.
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