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Wednesday, 21 June, 2000, 20:19 GMT 21:19 UK
GM mosquito to fight malaria
Mosquito
The malarial mosquito - a big killer in Africa
European scientists have created the world's first genetically-modified mosquito, which could eliminate malaria by introducing harmless versions of the insect into the wild.

A piece of foreign DNA was introduced into mosquito eggs, which then "jumped" into the chromosomes of the larvae, becoming part of the insects' genetic makeup.

According to the research, published in British magazine Nature, the DNA carried added genetic instructions for making a green fluorescent protein, allowing the modified insects to be identified when they glowed under ultraviolet light.

The researchers believed the same technique could be used to transform the most dangerous malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae.

The ultraviolet glow shows researchers whether the modified gene has been passed on to further generations.

Scientists from London's Imperial College, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, and the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology in Crete, Greece are using their knowledge of the fruitfly Drosophila to help with the research.

Warning

Genetics expert, Craig Coates from Texas A&M University, also writing in Nature, agrees it is a big step forward: "The successful transformation of a mosquito vector of human malaria is a notable advance in our ability to combat this devastating disease."

But he warns of the danger of releasing modified flies into the environment.

Hundreds of millions of people living in tropical and sub-tropical climates are affected by malaria-carrying mosquitoes. An estimated 2.7m die every year.

There is no viable vaccine against the malaria parasite, which is also becoming resistant to the most commonly used drugs.

The control of mosquitoes is hampered by resistance to insecticides and environmental worries about the long-term impact from the most effective chemicals, such as DDT.

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21 Apr 00 | Health
Malaria vaccine 'closer'
26 Jul 99 | Medical notes
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02 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
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