Mozzie wings cut - genetically

2010-02-23 11:10

Washington - First it was just swatting. Then poison. Then sterilising males. Now it is grounding females. Is there anything people will not try in the war against mosquitoes?

The latest idea: Genetic engineering that results in wingless female mosquitoes.

It is the females that do the biting, but if they cannot fly they cannot zoom in on their victims. They would be expected to die quickly on the ground, researchers suggest in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The real goal is to prevent mosquitoes from spreading disease, and the researchers led by Luke Alphey of the University of Oxford in England are studying ways to reduce the spread of dengue fever, which mosquitoes carry.

The researchers, several of whom have commercial interests in the work through Oxitec Ltd, developed a method to genetically alter male mosquitoes, which then could mate with females. Their offspring would have wing changes that prevent the females from flying.

Environmentally friendly

Males could still fly, but they do not bite.

"The technology is completely species specific, as the released males will mate only with females of the same species," Alphey said in a statement. "It's far more targeted and environmentally friendly than approaches dependent upon the use of chemical spray insecticides, which leave toxic residue."

Other efforts to block transmission of diseases such as malaria have involved releasing sterile male mosquitoes, which could breed with females, but no offspring result. Bed nets also are widely used, but the researchers said the dengue-spreading mosquitoes bite in daytime rather than at night.

While this research is aimed at dengue, Alphey and co-author Anthony A James of the University of California, Irvine, said it could also be adapted to such diseases as malaria and West Nile fever.

The research was funded by the University of California and the National Institutes of Health.

  • AJ - 2010-02-23 12:02

    So when the mozzie dies, does all the fish etc which feed on the mozzie larva also die?

  • Michael - 2010-02-23 12:18


  • ak - 2010-02-23 13:45

    man will distroy this world and when its too late to take back there deeds they are going to cry!!

  • alan - 2010-02-23 14:18

    Don't see how this could be effective, there would have to be a continous release of males with this gene, until there are far more modified males than natural males. And even then you would expect some natural males to continue to mate with females, so as soon as release of modified males stop, the natural variety will then take over again. Can scientist breed modified males faster than nature can breed normal males - perhaps the journalist can get some comment from the researchers as to how they envision taking over the world?

  • mozzihater - 2010-02-23 14:30

    Im prepared to suffer global catastrophe in excange for getting rid of mozzies

  • robz - 2010-02-23 21:22

    Late 2000 I used to listen to Voice of America's Africa broadcast. Then they were talking about changing the blood preverance of the female mosquito. Making them to prefer donkey blood over human blood.
    Females need blood to breed. If they can't fly it will be very difficult to feed and the mosquito will most probably die out.
    The male offspring of the modified male will be able to fly and he will carry the modified gene to a flying female whose daughters then will not be able to fly.
    So in theory the modified gene should spread through the whole population.
    It is only a specific mosquito type that carry dengue or malaria. Other mosquitoes will still exist and the fishes can eat them.

  • Jivan - 2010-02-24 11:20

    in the words of the immortal Ian Malcolm (Jurassic Park) Life will find a way

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