Researchers create mosquitoes incapable of transmitting malaria

Jun 12, 2012

Mosquitoes bred to be unable to infect people with the malaria parasite are an attractive approach to helping curb one of the world's most pressing public health issues, according to UC Irvine scientists.

Anthony James and colleagues from UCI and the Pasteur Institute in Paris have produced a model of the stephensi mosquito – a major source of malaria in India and the Middle East – that impairs the development of the . These mosquitoes, in turn, cannot transmit the disease through their bites.

"Our group has made significant advances with the creation of transgenic mosquitoes," said James, a UCI Distinguished Professor of microbiology & molecular genetics and molecular biology & biochemistry. "But this is the first model of a malaria vector with a genetic modification that can potentially exist in wild populations and be transferred through generations without affecting their fitness."

More than 40 percent of the world's population lives in areas where there is a risk of contracting malaria. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 300 million to 500 million cases of malaria occur each year, and nearly 1 million people die of the disease annually – largely infants, young children and pregnant women, most of them in Africa.

James said one advantage of his group's method is that it can be applied to the dozens of different mosquito types that harbor and transmit the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, including those in Africa. Study results appear this week in the early online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers conceived their approach through mouse studies. Mice infected with the human form of malaria create antibodies that kill the parasite. James' team exploited the molecular components of this mouse immune-system response and engineered genes that could produce the same response in mosquitoes. In their model, antibodies are released in genetically modified mosquitoes that render the parasite harmless to others.

"We see a complete deletion of the infectious version of the malaria parasite," said James, a member of the National Academy of Sciences. "This blocking process within the insect that carries malaria can help significantly reduce human sickness and death."

He and his colleagues have pioneered the creation of genetically altered that limit the transmission of dengue fever, and other vector-borne illnesses.

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El_Nose
1 / 5 (3) Jun 12, 2012
Yeah they can't transmit Malaria -- awesome -- til they accidentally transmit HIV. What guarantees do we have that this isn't opening up a big hole we can't dig out of.

Now that the fear-mongering is out of my system -- this seems to be a viable solution

EDIT:Oh now i remember what i didn't like about this -- it by design creates a strain of malaria we are unfamiliar with.

Yes, they will initially cut down on malaria in mammals. Awesome - then a malaria strain will evolve that is not susceptible to those antibodies. In the west we use broad spectrum antibodies to kill everything, unfortunately a staff infection in our hospitals might kill you. Scandanavian countries have stopped proscribing antibiotics when rest and fluids will suffice, and the rate of staff infection death in hospitals fell because they can use antibiotics on them again.

Antibiotics are great short term to bring a disease under control but long term use is always overkill.

I am not a doctor- comments-critiques
Caliban
1 / 5 (1) Jun 12, 2012
Unless the unalterd mosquitoes can be eradicated, then this is a very low-percentage "solution" to the problem of malaria, as these transgenic pests will only comprise a small fraction of the overall numbers of disease-bearing mosquitoes.

So, not only does this solution lack efficacy, it is also subject to the possibility of other negative outcomes, as El Nose states.

Mike_Massen
3 / 5 (4) Jun 12, 2012
A vaccine and methodology for dealing with it when it enters the (human) body is likely to be much more beneficial long term because, once that's done then it and the research community can deal with mutant variants by more or less straightforward extrapolation. If however, we concentrate primarily on the vector alone then we miss all sorts of other issues commented on here by Caliban & El_Nose (dont you love nicks)...

Whereas if we focus on the target & improved understanding of amending/improving that response then we prepare a foundation of core knowledge for potentially many other parasites known and to come and in other mammals as well such as livestock ! - and (dare I say it) perhaps even those involved with memes like politics, ffs ;-)
sstritt
4.2 / 5 (5) Jun 12, 2012
Unless the unalterd mosquitoes can be eradicated, then this is a very low-percentage "solution" to the problem of malaria, as these transgenic pests will only comprise a small fraction of the overall numbers of disease-bearing mosquitoes.

I'm pretty sure the idea is to transfer the immunity to the native population through interbreeding.
Caliban
3 / 5 (1) Jun 12, 2012
Unless the unalterd mosquitoes can be eradicated, then this is a very low-percentage "solution" to the problem of malaria, as these transgenic pests will only comprise a small fraction of the overall numbers of disease-bearing mosquitoes.


I'm pretty sure the idea is to transfer the immunity to the native population through interbreeding.


How do we guarantee that the transpests are superior at either out- or inter-breeding than all the other strains?

Sanescience
5 / 5 (3) Jun 13, 2012
First of all: @El Nose, HIV eh? And antibodies are not antibiotics.

Second: There is always the danger of unintended consequences. Though unlikely there is always the chance that the presence of malaria in a mosquito prevents something else from taking up residence. But it is unlikely, so you have to weigh the benifit to danger chance. In the case of Malaria, the benefit would be enormous, so I have difficulty seeing even an unlikely negative effect being worse than Malaria.
Deathclock
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 17, 2012
"Sane Science" has an apt user name... these place needs all the sanity it can get considering the normal commentators.
Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (1) Jun 17, 2012
Thank God for Government funded research.

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