Genetically modified mosquitoes ready to conquer malaria

Mosquitoes, unfortunately, have a valuable place in our ecosystem or something, so going out and nuking all of the little buggers is probably not a good option. The worst part about mosquitoes isn't mosquitoes themselves anyway: it's the malaria parasites that they carry, and genetic modification may have finally solved that problem for good.

Look, getting bit by mosquitoes is something that happens sometimes. It's one of the many hazards of going outdoors, and just because it's annoying doesn't mean we should try and fix it by destroying a species that other, friendlier species depend on for food. That would be like preventing sunburn by destroying the sun.

This doesn't mean we're going to give malaria a pass, though: in 2010, approximately 215 million people were infected with the debilitating blood parasites, and of those, 650,000 died. It's a very serious problem, especially in Africa, and it's only going to get worse as global warming leads to more swampland in which mosquitoes can breed. Population control is effective to some extent, but there are a lot of mosquitoes out there, and thanks to genetic engineering, the next generation of them might joining our side against malaria.

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris have altered the DNA of mosquitoes to make them entirely incapable of transmitting malaria, which is great. What's greater is that these mosquitoes can breed normally, and what's greatest is that the modified gene is dominant, meaning that if a modified mosquito breeds with a wild mosquito, their mosquitlets will all be unable to transmit malaria as well.

To really make a dent in the general mosquito population, millions of these genetically engineered bugs would have to be bred and released into the wild, a process that (according to the researchers) "is not something that people are going to be doing in their garage." Drat, I guess I'm going to have to rethink that mosquito breeding program I have going on in my garage, then. Even without my help, these modified mosquitoes should be available within about five years.

Via SciAm

For the latest tech stories, follow DVICE on Twitter
at @dvice or find us on Facebook