By Angus Howarth
THE tropical disease malaria could finally be eradicated after scientists created a genetically modified mosquito which cannot pass the disease to humans.
The disease is caused by a parasite, a single cell organism called plasmodium, but previous attempts to create GM mosquitoes have failed, because although they reduced the insects’ ability to pass on the pathogen, it was not eradicated all together.
But now a team of scientists believe they have created a mosquito immune to plasmodium, meaning it cannot pass the disease on to humans.
The ultimate aim is to replace wild mosquitoes with the lab-bred population, although scientists say this would take at least a decade to achieve.
Researcher Professor Michael Riehle, of the University of Arizona, said: “It’s not going to be a magic bullet or eradicate malaria, but it’s a new tool.”
Prof Riehle said previous attempts to genetically alter mosquitoes had failed to make the insects completely immune to the the parasite.
His team used molecular biology techniques to insert fresh genetic information into the mosquito’s genome, then injected it into mosquito eggs.
The newly hatched insects, from a species that spreads malaria throughout the Indian subcontinent, carried the altered genetic information and passed it on to subsequent generations.