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Mosquitoes engineered to zap ability to carry malaria

Efficacy test of gene drive shows it works better in males than females

By
2:47pm, November 23, 2015
Anopheles stephensi mosquito

BLOCKING MALARIA  Anopheles stephensi (pictured) is responsible for about 12 percent of malaria cases in India. Researchers have now engineered these mosquitoes to spread malaria resistance instead of disease.

A new genetic engineering technique may quickly inoculate mosquitoes against malaria, helping to end the spread of the disease in humans.

Using a gene-editing tool known as CRISPR/Cas9, researchers have made a “genetic vaccine” that will continually inject itself into mosquitoes’ DNA. Such a vaccine, known as a gene drive, could spread to nearly every mosquito in a population within a few generations. The accomplishment, described online November 23 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, brings researchers one step closer to malaria eradication.

“This work suggests that we're a hop, skip and jump away from actual gene drive candidates for eventual release,” says Kevin Esvelt, a synthetic biologist at Harvard University who was not involved in the work.

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