There just might be a revolutionary new technology in the offing that can eradicate malaria.
Scientists have managed to kill a whole population of malaria-carrying mosquitoes in their lab by using modified genes that make the killer insects infertile.
The results, published in Nature Biotechnology, mark the first recorded instance that the process, known as gene drive, has successfully suppressed a population of the killer bugs.
“This breakthrough shows that gene drive can work, providing hope in the fight against a disease that has plagued mankind for centuries,” said Andrea Crisanti, the research team leader and a life sciences professor.
Researchers took aim at a mosquito gene called “doublesex” that determines if a mosquito will develop into a male or female, according to the article. Males that carried the altered gene showed no changes, but many females displayed both male and female characteristics. The females also did not lay any eggs nor did they bite.
After eight generations, no further females were created and populations died out due to a lack of offspring, according to the article.
In order for this process to work in the wild, researchers must reproduce a tropical environment in lab settings.
While researchers are encouraged by the findings, they realize any long-term success eliminating malaria will take time.
“It will be at least five to 10 years before we consider testing any mosquitoes with gene drive in the wild,” said Crisanti.