A mutant mosquito that can resist malaria has been created by researchers in hopes of eliminating the potentially deadly disease.
In research published recently in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, U.S. researchers inserted a "resistance" gene into the mosquito's DNA with an editing technique called the Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, or CRISPR, according to the BBC News.
About 3.2 billion people, nearly half of the world's population, are at risk of malaria. With this new technique, the mutant mosquitos should not be able to pass on the parasite that causes the infection through their bites.
Another modification called a "gene drive" makes it so the edited genes that are malaria-resistant are passed down to future mosquito offspring.
"Gene drives work by manipulating the laws of genetics so that the desired genes are copied onto both of an offspring's chromosomes when a mutant mates with a wild mosquito," Sarah Kaplan, of The Washington Post, reported
. "Ordinarily, offspring get just half their traits from each parent — but with the mutant inserting its DNA into both chromosomes, mosquitoes with the gene drive were able to pass on the resistance to 99.5 percent of their offspring, the researchers say."
David Conway, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told the BBC News that the mutated mosquito will not completely solve the malaria problem, but could be a useful weapon.
"It's not the finished product yet but it certainly looks promising," he said. "It does look like the genetic editing works."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, malaria,
which can be fatal, is passed on when an infected mosquito feeds on a human. People suffering from malaria experience high fevers, shaking chills, and other, flu-like illness.
The CDC stated that about 1,500 malaria cases are diagnosed in the United States each year, with most cases reported in people who come from countries where malaria transmission more regularly occur, such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
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