New Malaria Strategy: No Mosquito Babies, No Problem

By Brett Israel | December 22, 2009 1:21 pm

Researchers from the Imperial College London have a new strategy to combat malaria. The species of mosquito responsible for the spread of malaria in Africa, Anopheles gambiae, only mates once during its life. Putting a stop to their one shot at reproduction should slow down malaria transmission. Anopheles males deploy a glob of proteins and fluids known as a “mating plug” that is essential for ensuring sperm is correctly retained in the female’s sperm storage organ, from where she can fertilise eggs over the course of her lifetime [BBC News]. Without a mating plug, the sperm is not stored and the mosquitoes can’t reproduce. Simply put, the researchers want to prevent male mosquitoes from plugging in the wild.

Anopheles gambiae is the only known species of mosquito to use a mating plug. (However, mating plugs are found in other animals where they prevent multiple males from reproducing with a female. Plug checking mice in research laboratories is a right of passage for many graduate students.) In their research, written up in the journal PLoS Biology, scientists were able to alter the mosquitoes’ genes so that they could no longer form a plug, and thus were unable to reproduce. If this process could be developed for use in the field, perhaps in a spray form like an insecticide, it could “effectively induce sterility in female mosquitoes in the wild,” [study author Flaminia] Catteruccia wrote, offering potential as “one more weapon in the arsenal against malaria” [Reuters]. The WHO is optimistic that their increased funding efforts will produce more technologies similar to this one and that, hopefully, one of them will prove effective.

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  • djanes1

    So, if you could spray this new ‘insecticide’ on a mosquito, you could get rid of mosquitos? Genius! This is completely different than existing insecticides!

  • Jason

    If it alters the DNA of the males it would have to be done in utero of the female moquitos. Otherwise as an environment change to effect the sexual maturation of the ‘plug’ for male mosquitoes how is this any different than using a checmical insecticide that forces male insects to mimic the femalea due to high estrogens in the insecticide?

  • mosquito chilito

    Lets take our time releasing a poison that targets dna. If we are overconfident, its possible to jump the gun and have catastrophic consequences to deal with. Those sprayed moscos will bite things and introduce an unintended biological agent to the host. Any one want to breathe in the fog behind the spray truck?

  • Christina Viering

    I was wondering when we would have a new insecticide.

  • john

    Interesting. Have the scientists considered the impact on the food chain? Removing a food source that has been available for millions of years could be catastrophic for other insects, birds, amphibians, bats, et al that rely on the onerous vector for its survival. How about going after the plasmodium on a genetic scale?

  • hosa

    LOL! foodsource?
    mosquitoes and i mean ALL mosquitoes are the most useless things in the world they dont prey on any thing and nothing preys on it esclusivley, so i hope this project effects all mosquitoes…whether john likes it or not!


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