Scientists have extracted the DNA from one tiny mosquito for the first time, heralding an “enormous breakthrough” in the fight against malaria. The procedure required taking DNA from just one mosquito, which has not previously been possible because of how small the insects are.
Traditional DNA models are taken from a patchwork of dozens of mosquitoes.
The advance will enable scientists to create a full, high quality picture of its genetic sequence, allowing researchers to study how the insects spread disease, adapt to insecticides and reproduce.
This could have significant implications in the stalling battle to eradicate malaria, which still kills roughly 435,000 people each year. The World Health Organization estimated there were 219 million cases of the disease in 2017, rising from 216 million the year before.
The new genetic sequencing technology will give researchers a better understanding of the mosquitoes themselves, said Dr Mara Lawniczak, evolutionary genetics expert at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and co-lead author of the report published in Genes journal.
“I think this is an enormous breakthrough, as it allows us to really see a complete picture of the mosquito genome. This is really important for vector and malaria control, as it allows us to study whole mosquitoes. Right now, we are restricted by the quality of the reference we have, but this gives us a more complete picture of the genome.