Genetics used as weapon against malaria

June 12, 2012 at 4:31 PM
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IRVINE, Calif., June 12 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they've created genetically modified mosquitoes incapable of transmitting the deadly disease malaria to humans.

Scientists at the University of California, Irvine, say the genetic option of breeding mosquitoes unable to infect people with the malaria parasite could help curb one of the world's most pressing public health issues.

Researchers at the Irvine campus, along with colleagues from the Pasteur Institute in Paris, have produced a model of the Anopheles stephensi mosquito -- a major source of malaria in India and the Middle East -- that impairs the development of the malaria parasite so it cannot transmit the disease through their bites.

"Our group has made significant advances with the creation of transgenic mosquitoes," UCI microbiology Professor Anthony James said in a university release Tuesday.

"But this is the first model of a malaria vector with a genetic modification that can potentially exist in wild populations and be transferred through generations without affecting their fitness."

The genetic modification can be applied to the dozens of different mosquito types that harbor and transmit the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, researchers said.

In the genetically modified mosquitoes antibodies are released that render the parasite harmless to others, they said.

"We see a complete deletion of the infectious version of the malaria parasite," James said. "This blocking process within the insect that carries malaria can help significantly reduce human sickness and death."

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