Controlling the mosquito population that spreads the malaria parasite has long been a technique for reducing the prevalence of the disease. Scientists are now realizing that killing the majority of or the entire population of Anopheles gambiae,
the African mosquito malaria vector, is not only highly unattainable but also unnecessary. It is only the females that bite and spread disease, so it is only the female mosquito population that needs to be controlled.
Just like humans, the Y chromosome contains a series of genes that code for proteins determining “maleness” in mosquitos. In a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences,
scientists looked to the Y chromosome to identify a male-determining gene that could use to “bias” the mosquito population toward the male sex. This novel vector control strategy could change the way scientists target malaria, and the same strategy could be used towards other mosquito species causing dengue fever and carrying the zika virus.
In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) recorded 198 million cases of malaria worldwide, leading to 500,000 deaths. Although malaria is largely preventable in the United States and other developed countries, scientists and doctors are still working to reduce the prevalence in countries like Africa.
Although the genome of A. gambiae
has long been sequenced, the genetic details of the Y chromosome have never been fully understood. The current study combined single-molecule sequencing, Illumina-based sex-specific transcriptional profiling, and whole-genome sequencing, and the results showed one gene as a potential candidate for engineering a “driving male chromosome.”
The gene they found is called YG2, and it is exclusive to the A. gambiae
Y chromosome across the entire species. If scientists can find a way for this gene to permeate through a large proportion of offspring, then less female mosquitoes will exist to spread malaria through their bite.
Source: University of California – Riverside