Science

Genetically-manipulated male mosquitoes could eliminate females

Genetically-manipulated male m...
A female Anopheles gambiae mosquito, packin' a blood meal and two X chromosomes
A female Anopheles gambiae mosquito, packin' a blood meal and two X chromosomes
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A female Anopheles gambiae mosquito, packin' a blood meal and two X chromosomes
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A female Anopheles gambiae mosquito, packin' a blood meal and two X chromosomes

Several years ago, we heard how scientists were looking at eradicating malaria-carrying mosquitoes by making the females infertile. Now they're going a step further, by eliminating the females altogether.

Led by Prof. Andrea Cristani of Imperial College London, an international research team started with a caged population of Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes – this is the mosquito group that's chiefly responsible for the transmission of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.

The scientists then created a genetically-manipulated version of the males, in which a DNA-cutting enzyme destroyed the X chromosome during the production of sperm. When those males mated with conventional females, the offspring were predominantly male – this is because while just one X and a Y chromosome trigger the development of males, two X's are required for females.

Ordinarily, the X-destroying gene would only be passed on to about 50 percent of the offspring. Utilizing what's known as gene drive technology, however, the researchers were able to boost that figure to almost 100 percent. As a result, over just a few generations, the caged population of mosquitoes became entirely male – it was thus unsustainable, and collapsed as a result.

It is hoped that once more studies have been conducted, the genetically-manipulated males could be released into wild Anopheles gambiae populations, ultimately eliminating them in specific geographical regions. And even before those populations collapsed completely, the malaria problem would already be addressed, as it's only the female mosquitoes that bite.

"This study represents a key milestone in the long-sought objective to bias the progeny of the human malaria mosquito so that only non-biting males are produced," says Cristani. "Having a proven driving sex-distorter opens a new avenue for scientists to develop genetic vector controls of malaria with the aim of eradicating the disease."

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

Source: Imperial College London

9 comments
FB36
IMHO, completely/permanently eradicating all diseases & parasites should/must be a common shared long term goal for whole humanity! Each disease/parasite keep causing massive damage/loss/cost/labor to humanity, absolutely for sure! Keep fighting against each/all (& keep suffering/losing) "for rest of eternity" is NOT a good/smart option, very obviously! Especially, mosquitoes are carriers of many extremely dangerous diseases & parasites & they do NOT have any essential function in nature (which cannot be done by many other insects)! & so they should/must be one of highest priority targets to completely/permanently/globally eradicate! (& of course, it would not be easy/quick/cheap! But, it is vitally important that we keep trying new ideas/solutions!)
guzmanchinky
Yes please. Not only because of malaria, but eventually all kinds of viruses that can be transmitted by these pests. And I can only imagine how much better life would be in so many parts of the world without these awful creatures.
TBC
I hope this works ... and they don't stop there - imagine if we could get rid of the fly's in Australia
xs400
I'd like to see them completely eliminated from the face of the earth. I know, the last time I said this (on Gizmag), people said it would upset the natural equilibrium - not really, natural would just settle down to a new equilibrium. Hate these pesky, biting creatures.
kdone
Good now please do this for ticks ... we need to decimate them yesterday..
Aross
Great idea. First we eradicate the mosquito, then the animals that feed on them, then the animals that feed on those animals etc. At that rate we won't have to worry about the bugs because we will have nothing to feed on and nature will go wild. These diseases are a way for mother nature to keep the biggest parasite on the planet in check, humanity. At the rate we are going in destroying the planet I don't see much hope.
Cryptonoetic
Any chance this could be developed for humans?
RangerJones
YIPPEEKAIYEAMF!
Peter Mackenzie
Would this idea work on the Scottish midges?