An amazing breakthrough has been achieved in the world of biology and genetics. A new genetic process has been discovered that is capable of transforming a female mosquito into a male. This holds an immense potential for the world of medicine that can greatly employ this method in putting together new and improved methods for the prevention of vector-borne diseases.
The key element about the diseases that are transmitted by mosquitoes is the fact that the females are the ones who actively contribute to the transmission, since they are the ones who actually do the biting. They do so in order to procure the energy they need to reproduce and bare the eggs to safety.
This latest scientific discovery concerns the mosquitoes from the genus Aedes and could therefore contribute to the prevention of diseases like Degue Fever, West Nile fever or Yellow fever. The research has been conducted by the Fralin Life Science Institute at Virginia Tech University.
What it entails exactly is a gene, that has been named Nix, that has an important role in the determination of this mosquito’s sex. Therefore, in their experiments, the scientists have injected Nix into mosquito embryos and the results showed that up 75% of adults ended up being males.
In order to give further weight to their study, the scientists then removed the Nix gene and so, the males tuned back into females, thus confirming their theories.
“We’re not there yet, but the ultimate goal is to be able to establish transgenic lines that express Nix in genetic females to convert them to harmless males,” stated Entomology Professor Zach Adelman.
Further research needs to be conducted in order to produce a complete method that can be applied in mass on mosquitoes, in the hopes of drastically reducing the number of females that are present in the environment.
Biological control methods such as this one have always been widely debated among scientists, as the effects of drastically reducing or eradicating a population of a species may have notable effects on all the other species that employ it in their life cycle and therefore, on the entire environment.
According to the CDC, every year there are 50 to 100 million people who suffer from Dengue Fever all around the world, and from these, up to 22,000 people die from severe cases, most of whom are children. Such statistics are enough to sway even the harshest of environmentalists that serious methods need to be applied as soon as possible.
Therefore, it is the scientific community’s hope and aim that a version meant for mass use on mosquitoes be devised for the Nix gene. This could significantly decrease the numbers of female Aedes mosquitoes, so that fewer and fewer people get the diseases they are capable of transmitting.
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