The Daily Telegraph

Man-made mosquito may help to stamp out malaria

- By Sarah Knapton SCIENCE EDITOR

MOSQUITOES that cannot spread malaria have been geneticall­y engineered by British scientists in a breakthrou­gh which could help eliminate the disease.

Imperial College altered the insects to produce molecules in their guts that stunt malaria parasite growth.

The modificati­on stops the parasites reaching the salivary glands of mosquitoes, so the disease cannot be passed on when the insects bite.

The technique has been shown to drasticall­y reduce the chance of malaria spread in a lab setting. If proven safe and effective in real-world settings, it could offer a powerful tool to help eliminate malaria, researcher­s believe.

The goal is to use gene-drive technology to make sure anti-parasite modificati­on is preferenti­ally inherited through mosquito population­s. The team hopes field trials will begin within three years.

Astrid Hoermann, of Imperial’s department of life sciences, and joint author of the study, said: “Delaying parasites’ developmen­t inside the mosquito is a conceptual shift that has opened many more opportunit­ies to block malaria transmissi­on from mosquitoes to humans.”

Malaria remains one of the world’s most devastatin­g diseases. In 2021 alone, it infected 241 million and killed 627,000 people, mostly children underaged below five years old in sub-saharan Africa.

Only around 10 per cent of mosquitoes live long enough for the malaria parasite to develop far enough to be infectious, but the new approach further extends the time it takes for the parasite to reach maturity. Scientists geneticall­y modified the main malariacar­rying species, Anopheles gambiae, so it procured two molecules that impair the growth of parasites.

Dr Nikolai Windbichle­r, the joint lead author of the research paper, said: “We are now aiming to test whether this modificati­on can block malaria transmissi­on not just using parasites we have reared in the laboratory but also from parasites that have infected humans.”

The research was published in the journal

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