We're on the path to
end human malaria
The mission of the University of California, Irvine Malaria Initiative (UCI MI) is to stop human malaria by:
- Discovering ways to modify mosquito populations so they cannot transmit malaria
- Working within local, national and global regulations in an ethical and open manner
- Understanding the needs of communities in their fight against malaria
- Helping train local scientists in the use of malaria-resistant mosquitoes
- Working with existing malaria control agencies to eliminate malaria
What is malaria?
Malaria is a disease caused by protozoan parasites and is transmitted to humans by the bites of infected female mosquitoes.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there were close to 216 million cases and near 445,000 deaths due to malaria in 2015 (World Malaria report 2017, WHO); more than 90 percent of these were in Africa. Most deaths from malaria occur with children.
No effective vaccine exists yet for this disease, and parasite resistance to drugs requires the discovery of at least one new chemical every five years. Mosquito resistance to pesticides cripples current effective control approaches.
What is population modification?
A genetic technology that alters natural mosquito populations to prevent them from transmitting malaria. This is achieved by coupling beneficial genes with a "gene drive".
What arebeneficial genes?
Beneficial Genes are designed to block malaria parasite development in the mosquito. When beneficial genes are engineered into the mosquito it makes them incapable of transmitting malaria.
What is gene-drive?
Gene-drive is a way to spread beneficial genes through mosquito populations at rates much higher than usual. Ordinarily, most genes are inherited by one-half (50 percent) of the offspring in the next generation. Mosquito gene-drive technologies result in close to 99 percent of the progeny having the desired gene.
We have combined the gene drive system with beneficial genes that make it impossible for mosquitoes to transmit malaria parasites. When mosquitoes carrying the beneficial genes with gene drive are released into the wild, we expect the beneficial genes to spread throughout a local mosquito population, preventing further transmission of the disease.
What are the benefits?
Population modification offers a low cost, sustainable solution to eliminate malaria. Population modification helps protect biodiversity by reducing the use of insecticides, and this method of changing the mosquito is not intended to eliminate mosquito populations or any other species in the food chain in which wild mosquitoes may be a part.
The UCI MI also involves researchers from:
Research Conduct at the UCI MI
The UCI MI uses World Health Organization; National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine; and UCI Institutional Biosafety Committee guidelines, as well as others, to conduct its research and maintain ethical standards.