Shooting blanks is usually not the most positive expression, but for some scientists and researchers, it could be just what they were looking for.

According to reports, the latest development in the battle against malaria is a breed of genetically engineered spermless mosquitoes.

According to Agence France-Presse:

Scientists at Imperial College London said that by genetically tweaking male mosquitoes to produce no sperm, females would still mate with them but would lay unfertilized eggs that would not hatch into mosquito larvae.

Since the females of the species Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto, the main type responsible for spreading malaria in Africa, mate only once in their lives, the discovery could have broad implications for a disease that kills nearly 800,000 people per year.

During the experiment, scientists injected mosquito eggs with a protein to disrupt the development of the males’ testes. As a result, they created 100 male mosquitoes without sperm but with normal behaviors and sexual functions. After observing them the scientists found that the females showed no difference in their interactions with the spermless males versus those with. Even after intercourse did not yield reproduction, the females did not seek out a second sperm-included partner. Also, the spermless males still produces a seminal fluid so they are virtually undetectable in the general population.

Charles Godfray, a researcher from the University of Oxford wrote of the study’s results:

“This is an exciting time with modern genetics providing a series of new ideas about how to control the major insect vectors of human disease, including the mosquito Anopheles gambiae — perhaps the single most dangerous insect species for mankind. A number of these techniques involve disrupting natural mating patterns and to get these to work a really good understanding of mosquito mating and reproduction is essential.”

Malaria remains one of the deadliest diseases in the world. According to the World Health Organization, 781,000 lives were lost to malaria, with 90 percent of those deaths occurring in Africa. Those in their first years of life are most susceptible to the disease as 92 percent of all cases in Africa were children under five.

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