Spermless mosquitoes could halt malaria spread: study

The Independent | August 13, 2011

Malaria is spread to humans by female mosquitoes who suck blood in order to help their offspring grow, but British scientists said Monday that introducing spermless males could halt the deadly disease.


Scientists at Imperial College London said that by genetically tweaking male mosquitoes to produce no sperm, females would still mate with them but would lay unfertilized eggs that would not hatch into mosquito larvae.

Since the females of the species Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto, the main type responsible for spreading malaria in Africa, mate only once in their lives, the discovery could have broad implications for a disease that kills nearly 800,000 people per year.

"This study strongly suggests that they cannot tell the difference between a fertile and a spermless mate," said Flaminia Catteruccia, lead author of the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists created 100 sterile males by injecting a protein into mosquito eggs that disrupted the development of the males' testes, but did not affect any of their other behaviors or sexual functions.

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