Mos­qui­toes, head in­juries, fires

Popular Science - - CONTENTS - EM­MÜELL GAUS VIA FACE­BOOK

EV­ERY YEAR, MOS­QUI­TOES cause an es­ti­mated 400,000 malaria-re­lated deaths. But dis­ease-bat­tling sci­en­tists such as Omar Ak­bari, a molec­u­lar bi­ol­o­gist at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at San Diego, say there’s a way to stop it: Get rid of the of­fend­ing crit­ters al­to­gether. The DNA-edit­ing tool CRISPR al­lows sci­en­tists to ma­nip­u­late a mos­quito’s genome in the lab and send it back into the wild. In­tro­duc­ing genes that ster­il­ize the malaria-spread­ing fe­male Anophe­les mos­qui­toes could force that pop­u­la­tion into ex­tinc­tion, tak­ing malaria down with it. But ge­neti­cists must also con­sider the mos­quito’s eco­log­i­cal niche: The bug is part of a healthy diet for an­i­mals such as fish and birds.

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