New Potential Weapon Against Malaria
Malaria, a parasitic infection caused by the Plasmodium protozoa, is spread by mosquitoes (such as Anopheles gambiae). Scientists publishing in Nature Communications report a new potential method to reduce mosquito populations. They have created a genetically modified mosquito that expresses an endonuclease (I-PpoI), which is an enzyme that breaks DNA with a specific sequence that is found on the gambiae X (female) chromosome, but not on the Y (male) chromosome.
The result is that, during the production of sperm, the female X chromosomes are destroyed. As a result >95% of the offspring are male. This trait is also carried down to the sons. In experiments, introduction of this GM mosquito to caged populations resulted in a significant drop in the number of females, crashing the population and in some cases resulting in the population dying out.
While years of field testing are still required, this could lead to an ecologically friendly way to control mosquito populations, and in the best-case scenario even break the cycle of malaria infection.
(Image credit: http://www.fotografonaturalista.com/anopheles)