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How will a bunch of genetically modified mosquitos conquer malaria?

Normally mosquitoes are the enemy; we are constantly thinking of ways to keep those suckers as far away from us as possible. But in the United States we’re pretty lucky when it comes to the gnat-like blood-suckers that won’t leave us alone, because most of the mosquitoes here don’t carry deadly diseases like malaria (not counting the SARS scare back in 2003) that are most commonly found in Africa (and as global warming increases, keep spreading).

However, thanks to science we’re able to control these disease-carrying specimens by creating our own genetically modified mosquito that transforms them into a “dead-end” for the malarial parasite, filling the modified bugs with antibodies to fight as they draw blood.

At the University of California, Irvine and The Pasteur Institute in Paris  researchers have been working on altering the DNA of the mosquitoes to make them unsusceptible to malaria–they can even function as normal mosquitoes, breeding, etc.–meaning the offspring of one of the genetically modified mosquitoes would prevent future generations from transmitting or catching the disease.

What’s good about this methodology is normally the antibodies fail when given as a vaccine to humans, but the stage the disease is at before the bug is able to transmit gives them the chance to conquer malaria.

Over the next several years scientists will begin releasing the perfected genetically modified mosquitoes into the wild, which doesn’t excite us in the sense there will be more of the little guys floatin’ around, but if it’s for the overall prevention of malaria we think we can deal with a few extra bugs here and there (which is why they made OFF!).

(via Ars Technica; photo via Joyce and Norm)

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Kaitlin Duffy is a writer from Cleveland. When she's not blogging or pondering the great complexities of the world and outer space, she is finding rare vinyl steals, visiting new places, laughing often, Instagramming everything in sight, watching movies, or working on her first feature Port de Cleve.