Giving Malaria a Deadline

Giving Malaria a Deadline

With a new genetic tool, scientists move a step closer to eradicating mosquitoes and the deadly diseases they carry.

A false-color scanning electron micrograph of an Anopheles gambiae mosquito. By using a method called a gene drive, researchers believe they can eliminate a population of disease-carrying mosquitoes within a dozen generations.CreditCreditDr. Tony Brain/Science Source

Malaria is among the world’s worst scourges. In 2016 the disease, which is caused by a parasite and transmitted by mosquitoes, infected 194 million people in Africa and caused 445,000 deaths.

But biologists now have developed a way of manipulating mosquito genetics that forces whole populations of the insect to self-destruct. The technique has proved so successful in laboratory tests that its authors envisage malaria could be eliminated from large regions of Africa within two decades…