According to British scientists and UC Irvine, they have developed a new strain of mosquitoes in which the females cannot fly and may help curb the transmission of dengue fever.
Dengue fever causes severe flulike symptoms and is among the world's most pressing public health issues. The dengue virus is spread through the bite of infected female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, and there is no vaccine or treatment.
UCI researchers and colleagues from Oxitec Ltd. and the University of Oxford created the flightless females which are expected to die quickly in the wild, curtailing the number of mosquitoes and reducing - or even eliminating - dengue transmission. Males of the strain can fly but do not bite or convey disease.
When genetically altered male mosquitoes mate with wild females and pass on their genes, females of the next generation are unable to fly. Scientists estimate that if released, the new breed could sustainably suppress the native mosquito population in six to nine months. The approach offers a safe, efficient alternative to harmful insecticides.
"Current dengue control methods are not sufficiently effective, and new ones are urgently needed," said Anthony James, Distinguished Professor of microbiology and molecular genetics and molecular biology and biochemistry at UCI and an internationally recognized vector biologist. "Controlling the mosquito that transmits this virus could significantly reduce human morbidity and mortality."
Study results appear in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for the week of Feb. 22.