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CRISPR-Based Ifegenia Tool Could Be Used to Control Malaria-Carrying Mosquito Populations

A CRISPR-based tool could be used to disrupt a key gene found among female Anopheles gambiae mosquitos, which can carry and transmit malaria, according to a new study in Science Advances. Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, developed a binary CRISPR-based vector control tool they've dubbed Ifegenia — for 'inherited female elimination by genetically encoded nucleases to interrupt alleles' — that disrupts the femaleless (fle) gene needed for the development of female Ae. gambiae. This disruption leads to the death of female mosquitos during the larval stage but does not affect male mosquitos. Because of this, the researchers say Ifegenia could be used to identify female and male mosquitos as well as to control the mosquito population. Their modeling further suggests that iterative releases of non-biting male mosquitos harboring Ifegenia would lead to long-term and controllable population suppression. "In all, Ifegenia not only provides important insights on the function of fle and demonstrates its value as a gene of interest for the vector control field at large but also provides a [genetic sexing system] and the first tool of its kind to combat malaria transmission in A. gambiae," the researchers write.