Breeding Sterile Mosquitoes Could Stem Tide of Malaria - ABC News
8/18/11 5:34 PM
August 18, 2011 Health
Genetically-Engineered Spermless Mosquitoes Offer Malaria Hope
By COURTNEY HUTCHISON, ABC News Medical Unit August 10, 2011
Where mosquito netting and bug spray fail, European scientists are turning to a unique solution to stem the tide of malaria infection worldwide: they're breeding boy bugs that shoot blanks. In a study release Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers in Italy and the U.K. showed they were able to genetically modify male Anopheles mosquitoes so that they wouldn't produce sperm. The bugs would still produce seminal fluid, so mating rituals would go on per usual, but the fruit of coupling would be sterile eggs that don't hatch. "If mosquitoes [don't] produce any progeny...the number of mosquitoes in the wild will be reduced, eventually reducing the chances of malaria transmission," says co-author on the study Dr. Flaminia Catteruccia, of the Imperial College in London. Though there are thousands of mosquito species, only a handful of them can transmit malaria, Catteruccia says, so targeting these species has the potential to reduce the spread of disease and is less likely to negatively impact the local ecosystem. The fact that the Anopheles species of mosquito tends to be monogamous only enhances the effect, as those females who mate with sterile males tended to not seek out other, potentially virile mates. Sterility may even prove a reproductive boon for sperm-less males, authors note, because making sperm is energy-consuming, thus the modified males may appear to be stronger mates. More than 225 million people worldwide suffer from malaria. Each year, nearly 800,000 people will die from the disease, many of whom are children living in Africa. "Given the constant spread of the disease, alternative approaches to the use of insecticides are urgently...