National Geographic Society Newsroom

Mosquito Virus Could Be a Weapon Against Malaria

Does hope for a strategy to control malaria lie in a virus that can kill or program the mosquitoes that transmit the disease? Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Malaria Research Institute have identified a previously unknown virus that is infectious to Anopheles gambiae–the mosquito primarily responsible for transmitting malaria. The...

mosquito virus.jpg

Does hope for a strategy to control malaria lie in a virus that can kill or program the mosquitoes that transmit the disease?

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Malaria Research Institute have identified a previously unknown virus that is infectious to Anopheles gambiae–the mosquito primarily responsible for transmitting malaria.

The virus is apparently harmless to mosquitoes, but researchers have already demonstrated that it can be manipulated. They successfully altered it to express harmless green fluorescent protein in adult mosquitoes which could be easily spotted under the microscope.

Image courtesy Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

“In theory, we could use this virus to produce a lethal toxin in the mosquito or instruct the mosquito to die after 10 days, which is before it can transmit the malaria parasite to humans,” said Jason Rasgon,  senior author of a study that was published August 22 online in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS Pathogens.

“However, these concepts are many years away,” Rasgon said.

The newly identified virus is of a type that is common to mosquitoes and other insects, but does not infect vertebrate animals such as humans.

Although the virus does not appear to harm the mosquitoes, the researchers determined it is highly infectious to mosquito larvae and is easily passed on to the adults.

Related National Geographic News stories:

About National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of the world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 14,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit www.nationalgeographic.org or follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Meet the Author

David Max Braun
More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn