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Now mosquitoes will fight malaria

Genetically modified mosquitoes, which carry a gene that prevents infection by the parasite, could help fight malaria that kills a million people each year.

tech reviews Updated: Mar 21, 2007 02:59 IST

US scientists have developed genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes, which they say could help fight malaria that kills a million people worldwide each year.

The GM mosquitoes developed by researcher Mauro Marrelli and his colleagues from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore are better able to survive than disease-carrying insects. The insect carries a gene that prevents infection by the malaria parasite, reported the online edition of BBC News.

The researchers allowed equal numbers of genetically modified and ordinary "wild-type" mosquitoes to feed on malaria-infected mice in the laboratory.

As they reproduced, more of the GM mosquitoes survived. After nine generations, 70 percent of the insects belonged to the malaria-resistant strain.

The GM strain of malaria-resistant mosquito was better able to survive than disease-carrying insects, the researchers said. The modified mosquitoes had also a higher survival rate and laid more eggs.

The results have important implications for implementation of malaria control by means of genetic modification of mosquitoes, the researchers said in their work published in the National Academy of Sciences journal.

Malaria, spread by the single-celled parasite Plasmodium, is endemic in parts of Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. The organism is passed to humans through the bite of the Anopheles mosquito. Each year it makes 300 million people ill.