by Work the World

According to a report on the BBC website today, scientists believe it may be possible to combat malaria by interfering with the sex lives of the mosquitoes which spread the disease. They have shown that the insects can only mate successfully if the male is able to seal his sperm inside the female using a "mating plug". Without the plug, fertilisation cannot occur, and the animals cannot reproduce.

The research comes from the Imperial College London study, who have published a journal detailing their findings. The researchers focused on the species of mosquito primarily responsible for the transmission of malaria in Africa - Anopheles gambiae. These insects mate only once in their lifetime, so disrupting the reproductive process offers a good way of dramatically reducing their numbers. Without the mating plug, females cannot store the males sperm and cannot reproduce.

  Dr Catteruccia said: "If in the future we can develop an inhibitor that prevents the coagulating enzyme doing its job inside male A. gambiae mosquitoes in such a way that can be deployed easily in the field - for example in the form of a spray as it is done with insecticides - then we could effectively induce sterility in female mosquitoes in the wild."

Professor Steve Lindsay, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said insects' mating behaviour was still not fully understood and so could not yet be controlled. He said "there is no one magic bullet." but that it was a novel idea!

You can read the BBC report here.

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