Malaria is transmitted to humans only by the biting female mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles, and causes 300-500 million cases and one million deaths each year. Now, thanks to work done at the Imperial College London, there might be a way to control a mosquito population:
Scientists have genetically modified male mosquitoes to express a glowing protein in their gonads, in an advance that allows them to separate the different sexes quickly.
By providing a way to quickly sex mosquitoes, the advance paves the way for pooling large numbers of sterile males which could be used to control the mosquito population.
Research published online today in Nature Biotechnology, shows how a team from Imperial College London have altered male mosquitoes to express a green fluorescent protein in their gonads. Coupled with a high speed sorting technique, scientists will be able to identify and separate the different mosquito sexes much more easily than by manually sorting.
Professor Andrea Crisanti, senior author of the paper, from Imperial College London, said: “This advance could have enormous implications for controlling mosquito populations. Now that we can identify males and females at an early stage, it will be possible to release sterile males into the population without the risk of releasing additional females. The release of sterile males has proven effective in controlling several insect pests when methods for sorting sex are available.
“Female mosquitoes are responsible for spreading malaria, and also for damage to crops, but they are only able to breed once before dying. By forcing females to breed with sterile males, we can stop them creating additional mosquitoes and at the same time, reduce the population.”