- Scientists in the United States said they had taken a major step toward developing a “mosquito birth control” drug to curb the spread of malaria and other killer diseases blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths a year.
- Researchers at the University of Arizona said they had discovered a protein unique to female mosquitoes which is critical for their young to hatch.
- When the scientists blocked the protein, the females laid eggs with defective shells causing the embryos inside to die.
- The team said developing drugs which targeted the protein could provide a way to reduce mosquito populations without harming beneficial insects such as bees.
- Mosquitoes are one of the world’s deadliest insects, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) which has warned that global progress against malaria is stalling.
- The disease infected around 216 million people in 2016, killing 445,000 of them, predominantly babies and young children in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Other diseases spread by mosquitoes include Zika, chikungunya, yellow fever, West Nile virus and dengue, which has risen 30-fold in recent decades, according to the WHO.