Over the last few years, scientists have explored a number of different approaches to genetically modify mosquitoes in order to make them unable to pass on the malaria parasite, or other causes of human illness.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a big supporter of this strategy, having donated nearly $40 million in research funding to various scientific endeavors. One of the primary challenges, besides accomplishing the genetic modification in the lab, is in getting the protective changes to spread in the wild when the bugs breed.
In this week’s scientific journal Nature, a team of researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Washington report the first-ever successful “proof-of-principle” demonstration in which such genetic modifications get passed on by modifying a few individuals who then breed them into the population at large.
Reuters quotes the lead scientist at Imperial College:
“This is an exciting technological development, one which I hope will pave the way for solutions to many global health problems,” said Andrea Crisanti of Imperial’s life sciences department, who led the study.
The UW scientists involved in the study included Summer B. Thyme, Hui Li, Umut Y. Ulge, Blake T. Hovde, David Baker and Raymond J. Monnat Jr.