At the University of California-Irvine, molecular biologist Anthony James is developing what he calls "sustainable technologies" rather than killing mosquitoes, instead rendering them unable to infect people.
James engineered immune system genes that could spur a mosquito's body to develop antibodies to attack the parasite, so that it couldn't transmit the infection.
Enter gene drives, a technique that proponents say one day might be used to wipe out invasive species like kudzu or cane toads, or reverse pesticide resistance in weeds, or suppress insect populations.
For Monday's study, the San Diego researchers teamed with James packing the malaria-resistance genes with the CRISPR-based gene drive, boosting chances of inheriting the malaria protection by targeting the change to a specific spot in the mosquito's reproductive DNA.
The prestigious National Academy of Sciences is studying ethical issues surrounding gene drive research, and the California team says countries that struggle with mosquito-borne diseases in particular should be involved.