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Biotech Medicine Science

Gene Drive Turns Mosquitoes Into Malaria Fighters (sciencemag.org) 69

sciencehabit writes: The war against malaria has a new ally: a controversial technology for spreading genes throughout a population of animals. Researchers report today that they have harnessed a so-called gene drive to efficiently endow mosquitoes with genes that should make them immune to the malaria parasite—and unable to spread it. On its own, gene drive won't get rid of malaria, but if successfully applied in the wild the method could help wipe out the disease, at least in some corners of the world. The approach "can bring us to zero [cases]," says Nora Besansky, a geneticist at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, who specializes in malaria-carrying mosquitoes. "The mosquitoes do their own work [and] reach places we can't afford to go or get to."
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Gene Drive Turns Mosquitoes Into Malaria Fighters

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  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @04:13AM (#50992185)

    I got dibs on the movie rights.

    • Wow, children will no longer die from malaria. Most will live to be adults and consumers of resources, have babies that will not die from malaria and will also ...

      Good thing we are so far from the carrying capacity of the earth that we will have time to address the over population problem.

      • And richer populations have fewer kids. If you're not living in an economically depressed malarial hellhole, you can afford birth control and set up a good economy.

        Believe it or not, public health and improving people's economic status decreases birth rates.

        Personally, I'd rather see worldwide populations limited by birth control and the naturally reduced birthrate that seems to ensue from better economic conditions than populations limited by war, famine, and pestilence.

        --PeterM

      • Wow, children will no longer die from malaria. Most will live to be adults and consumers of resources

        When people have confidence their children will survive, they have fewer of them. Reducing child mortality is one of the most effective ways to reduce population growth.

    • I got dibs on the movie rights.

      Mosquitonado?

  • Not ready (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Given how little we understand about the complexity of existing gene interactions and how they actually work, this whole concept seems a tad risky and unpredictable.

    • Given how little we understand about the complexity of existing gene interactions and how they actually work, this whole concept seems a tad risky and unpredictable.

      Given that gene drives are already common in nature, the risks are likely far less than you think.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    if it were in the hands of a caring, mature humanity. In the hands of a greedy pharma industry not so much...

  • The newest thing in Slashdot posts: don't even include an article. Nobody reads them anyway, so why bother? More professionalism from Dice.com staff.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      http://news.sciencemag.org/health/2015/11/gene-drive-turns-insects-malaria-fighters
      It's next to the title?

  • is to get rid of the mosquitoes directly [nytimes.com] by using selfish gene elements like segregation distorters. But imagine the "what could possibly go wrong" comments if you tried to even suggest this.
    • by whitesea ( 1811570 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @06:02AM (#50992491)

      is to get rid of the mosquitoes directly [nytimes.com] by using selfish gene elements like segregation distorters. But imagine the "what could possibly go wrong" comments if you tried to even suggest this.

      People tried to eradicate mosquitoes decades ago. Fish population suffered. We never know how things we hate are connected to the things we need. That's why it pays to consider long-term consequences before doing anything drastic.

      • People tried to eradicate mosquitoes decades ago. Fish population suffered.

        Can you provide a citation for this? I can't find one. It's well-known that mosquitoes are nothing's favorite food, except perhaps species we only care about because they suppress mosquitoes like the mosquitofish [wikipedia.org] which may have actually exacerbated the mosquito problem in Oz by outcompeting native mosquito-controlling fish.

        So, what kind of fish are you talking about? And where is your citation?

        • by Anonymous Coward

          omg, boy, mosquito larvae is the most favourite food of many many fish species, as any fishkeeper knows

          read fishbase.org if you need citations for such trivial facts

          • omg, boy, mosquito larvae is the most favourite food of many many fish species, as any fishkeeper knows

            What the statement meant is that nothing subsides primarily on mosquitoes or their larvae.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          It's well-known that mosquitoes are nothing's favorite food, except perhaps species we only care about because they suppress mosquitoes...

          Can you provide a citation for this? "Well-known" = "totally fabricated."

          Mosquitoes are one of the primary foods of most bat [batcon.org] populations. Little brown bats can eat up to 1500 mosquitoes in a single evening. Some bats eat as much as 1,000 mosquitoes in an hour.

          We care about bats. Bats don't just serve to suppress mosquitoes. They also serve as pollinators [fs.fed.us]. Given the problems that the bee populations have had in the last decade, bats are becoming increasingly important to agriculture in this pollinating

          • Mosquitoes are one of the primary foods of most bat populations.

            Your citation does not show that. It shows that bats are one of the primary predators of mosquitoes. You can try again if you like.

          • The bats that are insectivores are not the same bats that serve as pollinators. I'm not sure that is absolutely true but is mostly is.

      • The Cayman Islands trialled using a different GM technique to eradicate the local mosquito population. They used skeeters whose offspring require tetracycline to live [wikipedia.org]. The wild population dropped by 80%.

      • People tried to eradicate mosquitoes decades ago. Fish population suffered. We never know how things we hate are connected to the things we need. That's why it pays to consider long-term consequences before doing anything drastic.

        That is why Monsanto is preparing their Roundup Ready antimalarial mosquitoes.

    • by jrumney ( 197329 )
      They already tried this in a number of areas - by introducing large numbers of Asian Tiger Mosquitoes. The males will mate with the Anopheles Mosquitoes that carry Malaria, but no offspring will be produced because the species are not compatible. Since female Mosquitoes only mate once, this renders them childless. It works quite well against Malaria, but the downside is that Asian Tiger Mosquitoes carry Dengue and other diseases that are only marginally less severe than Malaria.
      • Is this a problem if they introduce MALE Asian Tiger Mosquitoes? Seems like you could completely wipe out anopheles mosquitoes. That said, this effect is probably temporary, because as soon as you cease releases, the anopheles will come back....

        Making the mosquito population more fit iff they don't carry malaria seems like a permanent solution that would spread instead of degrading over time.

        --PM

  • Malaria kills approx. 672k people/year worldwide (WHO: http://www.who.int/gho/malaria... [who.int]).

    Malaria cases per year, also very high in human cost, are much higher in number: 207M. AIDS has about 2x the death rate per year.

    Maybe try this out on an island population of anopheles mosquitoes?

    --PeterM

  • Mosquito bites are irritating, but as long as they don't spread disease they are endurable. Till the malaria pathogen mutates to find a new vector it would work.

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