Malaria Can Be Controlled By Genetically Modifying Mosquitoes So They Have More Male Offspring

Yonta ,6, rests with her sister Montra, 3, and brother Leakhena, 4 months under a mosquito bed in Cambodia. Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Using genetic modification to distort the sex ratio of malarial mosquito populations can rapidly erode their breeding capabilities and suppress their growth, according to UK research.

The study indicates that artificially increasing the numbers of male progeny may provide an effective means of controlling the spread of malaria

In many pest species, the fitness of the female population is responsible for maintaining overall population size.

The introduction of extreme, male-biased reproductive sex ratios has been suggested in the past as an effective method for controlling pest populations.

Nikolai Windbichler of Imperial College London and colleagues developed a system capable of distorting the naturally occurring male to female sex ratio in malaria mosquitos using a modified enzyme to target and destroy a specific region of its X-chromosome.

When introduced to caged wild mosquitos, the system was able to produce fertile mosquitos which produce more than 95% male offspring and effectively suppresses population size.

The authors suggest this may provide a platform for the use of genetic manipulation to control the spread of pests and diseases.

The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

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