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Nov 24, 2015 07:33 AM EST

Scientists create strain of malaria-blocking mosquito

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Researchers at the University of California claim that they have created a new strain of mosquito that could eventually help eliminate malaria, CNN reports.

The scientists in U.S. employed a gene editing technique to insert DNA into the germ line of the Anopheles stephensi mosquito.

The scientists discovered that the gene stopped the transmission of malaria through 99.5% of their offspring, according to a statement on the university's website. The scientists used the CRISPR gene-editing tool to change the genetic make up of the mosquitoes.

"This opens up the real promise that this technique can be adapted for eliminating malaria," said Anthony James, Distinguished Professor of molecular biology & biochemistry and microbiology and molecular genetics at UC's Irvine campus.

The research was published in the early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the statement said.

"We know the gene works. The mosquitoes we created are not the final brand, but we know this technology allows us to efficiently create large populations," James said.

Malaria is a deadly disease that's primarily transmitted through the bite of the female Anopheles stephensi mosquito. It's caused by Plasmodium parasites.

According to WHO figures released in September, around 438,000 people are estimated to have died of malaria this year.

One group of scientists last year said it created a strain carrying a gene which lead nearly all offspring to be male, which could cause wild populations to plummet, according to Yahoo News.

"In contrast, our much more flexible system only prevents mosquitoes from carrying malaria but can be used to do no harm to the mosquito. So it should generate the least amount of ecological damage," Bier said.

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