How genetically modifying mosquitoes could strengthen the world’s war on malaria

S. Oliver and J. Raman,  The Conversation,  2023.

Mosquitoes can be genetically modified through two different technologies. The first method, paratransgenesis, involves infecting mosquitoes with bacteria that prevent them from transmitting malaria. This doesn’t harm the mosquito. It is important not to eliminate or harm mosquitoes because they pollinate many plants and are food for animals like bats, birds and reptiles. Scientists are excited about this method following the recent discovery of a bacterium that occurs naturally in mosquitoes’ guts and appears to prevent the malaria parasite from developing inside the mosquito. The second method involves genetically modifying the mosquitoes themselves. This approach centres on gene drives: genetic systems that ensure genes of interest are inherited by all offspring in every generation. There are two types of gene drive. One aims to reduce the vector population size and is known as population suppression. The other aims to prevent the mosquito from transmitting malaria; it is known as population modification.

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