Mosquitos are definitely one of the most annoying parts of the summer — apart from the sweltering heat. They are tiny, irritating, and you usually can’t spot them until after you’ve got a constellation of bug bites down your legs. But the bugs can be just as scary as they are annoying, considering that they have become synonymous with diseases like malaria. Fortunately, a team of scientists are trying to fix that problem, using science, biological compounds and gene editing — they’re genetically engineering mosquitos to be resistant to malaria. A team at Johns Hopkins is using the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 to engineer mosquitoes and make them resistant to the malaria parasite.
The team used CRISPR to target the insect’s FREP1 gene, which creates immune proteins that allow the malaria parasite to live within the mosquito by removing the gene. The malaria parasite’s survivability decreases and keeps it from growing to the harmful stage that affects humans who are bit.
While this seems like good news, the engineered mosquitoes suffered side effects — they didn’t drink as much blood or lay as many eggs as their counterparts. But if the team can perfect the process, we could all be less at risk for contracting malaria.