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Here, genetically modified mosquito larvae shine under the microscope. To better distinguish them from unchanged mosquitoes, they were fluorescently labeled. The larvae could help curb the spread of malaria, according to a study published by the journal Science.

Mosquitoes spread malaria pathogens. A unicellular parasite called Plasmodium falciparum leads to infection of humans. For decades scientists have been working to break the chain of infection. Now first success seems to be possible.

A research group led by Andrew Pike of Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute modified the genes of Anopheles mosquitoes to produce a protein that suppresses the malaria infection in the mosquito body.

The scientists also found that the modified mosquitoes on partners that have not been genetically engineered were particularly attractive: the protein appears to affect the composition of the bacteria in the digestive tract of the bloodsuckers. As a result, the malaria-resistant animals obviously smell more interesting for sexual partners than mosquitoes without resistance. Genetically modified males fished preferentially females without the genetic variation. Conversely, modified females chose genetically unmodified males as favorites. This mechanism supports the spread of mosquitoes with malaria resistance. display

Another approach was pursued by Sibao Wang and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. They discovered a bacterial strain of the genus Serratia, which spreads rapidly through sexual transmission within a mosquito population. The researchers equipped this bacterial strain with the genes of malaria-suppressing bacteria from the digestive tract of Anopheles mosquitoes.

In the next step they covered sugar pieces with the upgraded Serratia bacteria and fed female mosquitoes with it. In this way, the team settled the bacterial strain in the digestive tract of the animals.

Both studies provide evidence for effective, nationwide methods that can help eradicate malaria.

Photo: Yuemei Dong

© science.de - Ruth Rehbock / Jana Burczyk
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