Mosquitoes Genetically Modified To Crash Species That Spreads Malaria

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: For the first time, scientists have demonstrated that a controversial new kind of genetic engineering can rapidly spread a self-destructive genetic modification through a complex species. The scientists used the revolutionary gene-editing tool known as CRISPR to engineer mosquitoes with a “gene drive,” which rapidly transmitted a sterilizing mutation through other members of the mosquito’s species. After mosquitoes carrying the mutation were released into cages filled with unmodified mosquitoes in a high-security basement laboratory in London, virtually all of the insects were wiped out, according to a report in Nature Biotechnology. The mosquitoes were created in the hopes of using them as a potent new weapon in the long, frustrating fight against malaria. Malaria remains one of the world’s deadliest diseases, killing more than 400,000 people every year, mostly children younger than 5 years old. What’s encouraging is that the mosquitos reportedly did not appear to further mutate in a way that would diminish the effectiveness of the engineered mutation. “But the researchers stressed that many years of additional research are needed to further test the safety and effectiveness of the approach before anyone attempts to release these mosquitos or any other organisms created this way into the wild,” reports NPR.