Part of the show What is a Virus and How do Viruses Cause Disease - Stacey Efstathiou
American scientists have developed a genetically modified mosquito to help tackle the growing problem of malaria, which affects over 250 million people around the world. Malaria is caused by a parasite that is carried in the bloodstream and spread by female mosquitos. When the mosquito feeds on a person carrying malaria, the malaria parasites first infect the digestive system of the mosquito, grow, and then pass into the next victim through the saliva of the mosquito. The American researchers have engineered a strain of genetically modified mosquitos that produce a substance in their digestive system and salivary glands that prevents the malarial parasites from passing through, thus cutting the number of parasites carried by the mosquito by 80%, and therefore reducing the chances of the disease being passed on. The idea is to release these modified mosquitos into the wild so that they mate with normal mosquitos to produce offspring resistant to malaria. The scientists are still trying to work out how exactly to do this, and how to get around another major problem which is how to prevent malaria from adapting so that it can still grow in the modified mosquitos.