Researchers at The Pirbright Institute have successfully edited the genes of the southern house mosquito. The female of this species is the vector responsible for avian malaria transmission - a key contributor to the extinction of several species of birds - and for spreading human diseases such as lymphatic filariasis (commonly known as elephantiasis) and the West Nile virus.

The results of this study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, showed that the gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9 could be used to introduce a gene for a fluorescent protein into the genome of the mosquito, which was successfully inherited by its offspring. In the future, the same technique could be used to spread a desired trait (such as the inability to spread a disease or to produce fertile offspring) through the southern house mosquito’s population.

The discovery is one more important step towards the development of new tools that can help address global health challenges such as malaria, West Nile virus and other vector-borne diseases. Current vector-control strategies depend heavily on insecticides which can be harmful to both humans and the environment and are becoming increasingly ineffective with the rise of resistance.

Read more on The Pirbright Institute’s website