Scientists Building a Safer Mosquito

Posted on December 13, 2006  Comments (0)

Scientists building a better mosquito by Catherine Clabby:

Eliminating the pests appears impossible. But scientists are attempting to re-engineer them so they cannot carry disease. If they manage that, they must create enough mutants to mate with wild insects and one day to outnumber them.

Researchers chasing this dream, including an N.C. State University entomologist, know they may court controversy. Genetically modified crop plants such as soybeans, corn and cotton have become common in the United States, but an altered organism on wings would be a first.

Gould is working on the project with scientists on four continents. They landed $19.7 million under a Grand Challenges in Global Health grant offered by the Gates philanthropy and a National Institutes of Health foundation. The funders selected researchers ready to collaborate rather than compete on risky research aimed at solving massive health threats in poor places.

The genetic tinkering is focused at first on dengue, a tropical virus re-emerging in Asia, Latin America and Africa. While dengue claims a fraction of the million or more victims that malaria kills annually, it strikes 50 to 100 million people each year with severe flu symptoms. Outbreaks disrupt families and communities and overburden health systems.

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