They used gene editing known as Crispr to modify a part of the doublesex gene that is responsible for female development. Female insects with two copies of the altered gene showed both male and female characteristics. They did not bite and did not lay eggs. Prof Andrea Crisanti and colleagues report that caged populations of Anopheles gambiae collapsed within 7-11 generations. An. gambiae are among the most effective spreaders of malaria known to humanity. They mainly live in sub-Saharan Africa, which counts for around 80 percent of the modern world’s cases of malaria. In 2016, there were around 216 million cases of malaria worldwide with around 445,000 deaths.
The Imperial College in London
The research must be continued to determine if the technology could be used to control mosquito populations in the wild. In the past, the insects developed resistance to the genetic modification. “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,” Prof Crisanti commented. There is still more work to be done. After all, a problem remains: no one knows what will happen in nature if mosquitoes will disappear. Reshaping the environment can have unexpected consequences even if to humans mosquitoes are at best annoying and at worst deadly. In October, a team of Target Malaria scientists from the University of Ghana and the University of Oxford will embark on a four-year study of the ecology of the malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae in Ghana, to understand how fish, bats, flowers, and insects would respond if the mosquito populations were reduced or even entirely eliminated.