Malaria is mainly transmitted through mosquito bites, and current prevention methods are nothing more than killing insects or preventing mosquitoes from getting parasites.
Malaria is a disease transmitted by infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. After the female Anopheles mosquito bites a patient with malaria, the mosquito becomes infected and spreads the disease when it bites another person.
The parasite will enter the intestine with the blood and enter the next stage of development. If the parasite is transferred to the salivary gland of the mosquito at this stage, the mosquito has the ability to infect.
Only about 10 percent of parasite-carrying mosquitoes live long enough for the parasite to grow to the infection stage, according to project scientists at Imperial College London’s Zero project.
The researchers set out to slow the growth of parasites in the gut, allowing mosquito parasites to age and die before they reach the salivary glands.
Scientists have genetically modified Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes to produce two “antibacterial peptide” molecules each time they feed on blood.
These molecules, obtained from African clawed frogs and honeybees, interfere with parasite metabolism and shorten mosquito lifespans, increasing the chance that mosquitoes die before the parasite becomes infectious. In general, adult female mosquitoes live about six weeks.
The researchers experimented that the modified mosquitoes did transmit malaria with a lower success rate than ordinary mosquitoes. If the genetically modified mosquitoes mate with other mosquitoes in the wild, the offspring will also have the same gene, which helps to suppress malaria.
The only pity is that due to the short lifespan of mosquitoes, the acquired survival is obviously at a disadvantage, and it is very likely that the natural environment will be quickly eliminated by the gene pool.
That’s why scientists study gene drives, which force populations to spread the genetic components of modified genes, which in turn improve mosquito genes.
Researchers plan to improve mosquitoes at facilities in Tanzania. Two mosquito species were tested, one with only the parasite inhibitory molecule and the other with only the gene drive. If neither presents ecological hazards, they can be combined into one.
Astrid Hoermann, a postdoctoral researcher and co-author of the paper, said:
“We have tried for years to create mosquitoes that are not infected with parasites, or mosquitoes that rely on their own immune system to get rid of all parasites, but to no avail. Delaying parasite growth in mosquitoes is a conceptual shift that offers more opportunities to interrupt malaria transmission. “