A female mosquito cannot tell if the male that she has mated with is fertile or 'spermless' and unable to fertilise her eggs, according to a new study from scientists at Imperial College London.
The research, published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could help scientists in their mission to prevent the spread of malaria by interfering with the mosquitoes' ability to reproduce.
Malaria is a debilitating disease that affects more than 300 million people every year, and kills nearly 800,000 annually. In Africa, a child dies of malaria about every 45 seconds. Public health experts are working towards the eradication of malaria, but there is a recognised need for better and lower cost tools to achieve the eradication goal. The new study focuses on Anopheles gambiae, the species of mosquito primarily responsible for the transmission of malaria in Africa.
Today's results lend support to the idea that in the future it will be possible to control the size of the malaria-carrying mosquito population by introducing a genetic change that makes the males sterile. Such a method would rely on females mating unknowingly with such modified males and failing to produce any offspring. Although researchers are currently working on this solution, nothing has yet been trialled.
This study was carried out thanks to funding by the Medical Research Council in the UK and the European Community FP7 Collaborative Project grant called Malbecblok.
Lead author of the study, Dr Flaminia Catteruccia from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London, said: "In the fight against malaria, many hope that the ability to genetically control the mosquito vector will one day be an key part of our armoury. In order for these currently theoretical control strategies to work, we need to make sure that the insects continue to mate as normal, unaware that we have interfered with their sexual m
|Contact: Simon Levey|
Imperial College London