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Online Discussion: Tracking new emerging diseases and the next pandemic

End of malaria?

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    Posted: September 25 2018 at 4:16pm
End of malaria? Disease-carrying mosquitos WIPED-OUT in groundbreaking tests

CATASTROPHIC man-made mutations could cause malaria-carrying mosquitos to breed themselves into extinction, scientists claim.

British researchers have the first time used the “gene drive” technique to successfully spread female infertility and cause a mosquito population to collapse.

The team targeted a gene which determines the insect’s sex, and modified it so females began to show both male and female traits, preventing them from laying eggs.

The experts believe by genetically modifying a number of insects to have one copy of the gene, they could start to spread through the population.

It is hoped that eventually enough of the females will carry both copies of the gene, causing them to die because regular sex development fails.

Imperial College London researcher Professor Andrea Crisanti said: "This breakthrough shows that gene drive can work, providing hope in the fight against a disease that has plagued mankind for centuries.

“There is still more work to be done, both in terms of testing the technology in larger lab-based studies and working with affected countries to assess the feasibility of such an intervention.

"It will still be at least 5-10 years before we consider testing any mosquitoes with gene drive in the wild, but now we have some encouraging proof that we're on the right path.

“Gene drive solutions have the potential one day to expedite malaria eradication by overcoming the barriers of logistics in resource-poor countries."

Nearly half of the world's population is at risk of malaria.

In 2015, there were roughly 212 million malaria cases and an estimated 429 000 malaria deaths.

However, increased prevention and control measures have led to a 29% reduction in malaria mortality rates globally since 2010.

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Absence of proof is not proof of absence.
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