Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Anti-malaria mosquitoes emerge

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University have created Genetically Modified or GM mosquitoes by giving them a gene that makes it impossible for them to pass on the plasmodium that causes malaria.

"What we did was a laboratory, proof-of-principle experiment; we're not anywhere close to releasing them into the wild right now," revealed Dr Jason Rasgon of Johns Hopkins University.

The research provides evidence that engineering mosquitoes to resist the parasite could help to control a disease that takes up to 2.7 million lives each year, chiefly in Africa. Malaria infects between 300 million and 500 million people each year. Only HIV/ Aids causes more deaths from infectious disease.

The idea of the experiment is to release large numbers of GM mosquitoes where malaria is common, where they would interbreed with wild ones. Over several generations, resistance should spread through the mosquito population, so that fewer insects carry malaria.

Scientists are playing a deadly game with nature. In the past, killer bees were made in another such experiment and now they dominate in some parts of the world. Time will only tell whether the GM mosquitoe came out as result of a fool-hardy experiment.

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