This discovery of 29 ‘new’ mosquito genes could open door to curbing malaria spread in India

A comprehensive genome sequencing of a Anopheles stephensi — a malaria-carrying mosquito found in India and Asia — has revealed at least 29 previously unknown genes that make them resistant to insecticides.

Anopheles stephensi is the primary vector of urban malaria in the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East and an emerging malaria vector in Africa. Mosquito-transmitted malaria claimed more than 4 lakh human lives in 2019.

Researchers from University of California, Irvine, Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology in Bengaluru and the Tata Institute for Genetics and Society (TIGS) at UC San Diego and Bengaluru collaborated to produce a new reference genome for a sample of the mosquito from India.

Every living organism is run by a set of genomes that ‘instruct’ cells how to build proteins. Understanding the sequence of genes is thus like cracking the code to the organism and how it functions. Unravelling the genetic code, letter-by-letter, is known as genetic sequencing.

Parts of the Anopheles stephensi genome were already known to scientists, but in this new effort, researchers unearthed over 3,000 genes that previously evaded scrutiny.