The First Malaria-Proof Mosquito

Malaria: No Ordinary Mosquito Bite

Malaria-proof mosquito engineered

Scientists in the US have succeeded in genetically engineering a malaria-resistant mosquito. 

The researchers, from the University of Arizona, introduced a gene that affected the insect's gut, meaning the malaria parasite could not develop.

They report the advance, which also reduced the insects' lifespan, in the journal PLoS Pathogens.

They say that the ultimate goal is to introduce malaria-resistant mosquitoes into the environment.

malaria lifecycle

Discovery News

Malaria-Proof Mosquito Created

This major breakthrough could prevent millions of people from being infected with the life-threatening disease.

The scientists focused on the parasites as they develop by targeting the Akt gene. Previous studies have shown that Akt affects a mosquito's longevity, immune system and digestion -- all of which could affect the bug's susceptibility to malaria.

As a result, the team engineered a special version of the Akt gene into the eggs of Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes.

After infecting the mosquitoes with Plasmodium parasites and allowing them to develop, the scientists examined the mosquitoes. They found no trace of the malaria parasites in mosquitoes that had the amped up version of Akt.

Exactly how Akt eliminates malaria in mosquitoes is unknown.

The First Malaria-Proof Mosquito

Michael Riehle, holding genetically altered mosquitoes, and his team work in a highly secure lab environment to prevent their study subjects from escaping.
Riehle is a professor of entomology in UA's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and is a member of the BIO5 Institute.

Riehle's team used molecular biology techniques to design a piece of genetic information capable of inserting itself into a mosquito's genome. This construct was then injected into the eggs of the mosquitoes. The emerging generation carries the altered genetic information and passes it on to future generations.

Department of Entomology
Research Program
Mosquito borne diseases impact the lives of billions worldwide. Malaria alone infects at least 300 million people annually, resulting in 1 to 3 million deaths, mostly children. Other diseases spread by mosquitoes, such as dengue and West Nile encephalitis, continue to broaden their range. Unfortunately, traditional mosquito control methods such as insecticide treatment have become less effective as mosquitoes develop resistance to these compounds. Thus, it is critical that we develop novel means of controlling these pests. Towards this goal, my lab is attempting to better understand the mosquito’s physiology and use this knowledge to reduce the mosquito’s ability to transmit disease.
Collected from: Department of Entomology

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Department of Entomology

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Plasmodium falciparum - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The first malaria-proof mosquito

Department of Entomology

Plasmodium in human blood cells, malaria, molecular models

PLoS Pathogens: Activation of Akt Signaling Reduces the Prevalence and Intensity of Malaria Parasite Infection and Lifespan in Anopheles stephensi Mosquitoes

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