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Mutant mosquitoes engineered to resist the parasite that causes malaria could wipe out the disease in some regions — for good.
Humans contract malaria from mosquitoes that are infected by parasites from the genus Plasmodium. Previous work had shown that mosquitoes could be engineered to rebuff the parasite P. falciparum, but researchers lacked a way to ensure that the resistance genes would spread rapidly through a wild population.
In work published on November 23 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers used a controversial method called ‘gene drive’ to ensure that an engineered mosquito would pass on its new resistance genes to nearly all of its offspring — not just half, as would normally be the case.
The result: a gene that could spread through a wild population like wildfire.
“This work suggests that we’re a hop, skip and jump away from actual gene-drive candidates for eventual release,” says Kevin Esvelt, an evolutionary engineer at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who studies gene drive in yeast and nematodes.
For Anthony James, a molecular biologist at the University of California, Irvine, and an author of the paper, such a release would spell the end of a 30-year quest to use mozzie genetics to squash malaria.
Read full, original post: ‘Gene Drive’ Mosquitoes Engineered to Fight Malaria