by Work the World

The crusade against combatting infectious disease at the souce continues with an attack on dengue fever via its carrier - the ever unpopular mosquito.

The dengue virus is spread by the bite of infected female mosquitoes and there is no vaccine or treatment. It affects up to 100 million people a year and threatens over a third of the world's population. Scientists have been working on a clever plan of attack to stop dengue spreading, breeding a new strain of flightless males specific to the species of mosquito that carries dengue. The hope is that females will mate with these "damaged" males and their offspring will inherit a gene that limits wing growth in females only. Males will be carriers but will continue as normal, further spreading the gene.

It sounds ambitious, but as dengue is spread by only a couple of different species of mosquito and the newly bred males will only mate with females from the same species, experts believe that within as little as six to nine months the native mosquito population could be supressed. There is also hope that in the future this could be a way of attacking other killers like malaria.

Dr Hilary Ranson, of the Liverpool School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the work was a major step forward.

"This is a significant advance. It will be logistically challenging to make and release enough of the male mosquitoes and it's not going to be cheap. But it can be done with the right resources."

You can read the full report via this link to the BBC news.

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