Genetically modified mosquitoes resist all dengue viruses, researchers find

This new kind of mosquito can't spread any form of the deadly disease.

Bonnie Burton
Journalist Bonnie Burton writes about movies, TV shows, comics, science and robots. She is the author of the books Live or Die: Survival Hacks, Wizarding World: Movie Magic Amazing Artifacts, The Star Wars Craft Book, Girls Against Girls, Draw Star Wars, Planets in Peril and more! E-mail Bonnie.
Bonnie Burton
2 min read

A team working with Professor Omar Akbari of UC-San Diego has engineered mosquitoes that repel the four known types of dengue virus.

Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

Getting a mosquito bite can be more than just annoying. If the pest is carrying a virus like dengue, the bite can make you sick with fever, rash and extreme pain -- or it can even kill you. But a team of researchers may have a solution. Scientists from the Australia national science agency CSIRO and the University of California at San Diego have engineered what they say is the first genetically modified mosquitoes resistant to spreading all four types of the dengue virus.


The Aedes aegypti mosquito spreads dengue virus. 

Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

"Recent advances in genetic engineering technologies have made it possible to create mosquitoes with reduced vector competence, limiting their ability to acquire and transmit pathogens," scientists said in a research paper published Thursday in the medical journal PLOS Pathogens.

Scientists modified female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes with the antibody against the virus. The mosquitoes appear to be unable to spread any form of the debilitating disease.

"Once the female mosquito takes in blood, the antibody is activated and expressed -- that's the trigger," study co-author and UC San Diego Professor Omar S. Akbari said in a statement. "The antibody is able to hinder the replication of the virus and prevent its dissemination throughout the mosquito, which then prevents its transmission to humans. It's a powerful approach." 

The research could eventually change the lives of millions of people. According to the study, more than half of the world's population is at risk of contracting the virus, with 390 million infections documented annually.

"We are already in the early stages of testing methods to simultaneously neutralize mosquitoes against dengue and a suite of other viruses such as Zika, yellow fever and chikungunya," Akbari said

The mosquitoes in the study were tested in CSIRO's bio-containment site specifically designed for research of dangerous infectious agents.  

The study found that the new genetically engineered mosquitoes are potentially more efficient in fighting the spread of disease than mosquitoes armed with bacterium Wolbachia pipientis, which was approved by the EPA in 2017.