Researchers have created spermless mosquitoes to defeat the spread of malaria, a disease which kills around one million people every year worldwide.
In a study released on Monday, scientist from Britain and Italy genetically altered male mosquitoes so that they did not produce sperm, although they could still deliver seminal fluid while mating.
The females were just as willing to mate with these males as with the fertile ones, but the eggs they produced were sterile.
Entomolosgist Flaminia Catteruccia explains that female mosquitoes mate just once in their lives. By tricking the female mosquitoes to think that they have mated successfully, they will continue to lay eggs without knowing that they have not been fertilized.
"You [could] in principle release large numbers of sterile males over many generations… and eventually all the females will have mated with the sterile males and…you can really reduce the number of mosquitoes," said Dr Catteruccia.
About 10,000 mosquito embryos were injected with tiny fragments of RNA designed to turn off a gene called ZPG, responsible for developing genes. This would reduce the number of hatching mosquitoes, but Dr Catterucci warns that this method used by her team to produce spermless mosquitoes would be far too labor-intensive.