Genetically engineered bacteria prevent mosquitoes from transmitting malaria

July 16, 2012

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute have genetically modified a bacterium commonly found in the mosquito's midgut and found that the parasite that causes malaria in people does not survive in mosquitoes carrying the modified bacterium. The bacterium, Pantoea agglomerans, was modified to secrete proteins toxic to the malaria parasite, but the toxins do not harm the mosquito or humans. According to a study published by PNAS, the modified bacteria were 98 percent effective in reducing the malaria parasite burden in mosquitoes.

"In the past, we worked to genetically modify the mosquito to resist malaria, but of bacteria is a simpler approach," said Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena, PhD, senior author of the study and a professor with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "The ultimate goal is to completely prevent the mosquito from spreading the malaria parasite to people."

With the study, Jacobs-Lorena and his colleagues found that the engineered P. agglomerans strains inhibited development of the deadliest human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum and rodent malaria parasite Plasmodium berghei by up to 98 percent within the mosquito. The proportion of carrying (prevalence) decreased by up to 84 percent.

"We demonstrate the use of an engineered symbiotic bacterium to interfere with the development of P. falciparum in the mosquito. These findings provide the foundation for the use of genetically modified as a powerful tool to combat malaria," said Jacobs-Lorena.

Malaria kills more than 800,000 people worldwide each year. Many are children.

Explore further: Scientists engineer mosquito immune system to fight malaria

More information: "Fighting malaria with engineered symbiotic bacteria from vector mosquitoes" PNAS, 2012.

Related Stories

Scientists engineer mosquito immune system to fight malaria

December 22, 2011

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute have demonstrated that the Anopheles mosquito's innate immune system could be genetically engineered to block the transmission of malaria-causing parasites to humans. ...

Malaria immunity trigger found for multiple mosquito species

March 13, 2009

( -- Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have for the first time identified a molecular pathway that triggers an immune response in multiple mosquito species capable of stopping ...

Recommended for you

How Frankenstein saved humankind from probable extinction

October 28, 2016

Frankenstein as we know him, the grotesque monster that was created through a weird science experiment, is actually a nameless Creature created by scientist Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley's 1818 novel, "Frankenstein." ...

Closer look reveals tubule structure of endoplasmic reticulum

October 28, 2016

(—A team of researchers from the U.S. and the U.K. has used high-resolution imaging techniques to get a closer look at the endoplasmic reticulum (ET), a cellular organelle, and in so doing, has found that its structure ...

Computer model is 'crystal ball' for E. coli bacteria

October 28, 2016

It's difficult to make predictions, especially about the future, and even more so when they involve the reactions of living cells—huge numbers of genes, proteins and enzymes, embedded in complex pathways and feedback loops. ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

2 / 5 (3) Jul 17, 2012
Not to be the angel of doom on such good news but it does raise the question about the other 2% that doesn't get caught. The article doesn't raise that issue and therefore leaves one wondering why the researchers don't discuss the failures. What will happen to those parasites that don't get eliminated - do they actually show some kind of resistance to the toxins or is there some failure in delivery of said toxin?
The concern is of course that that seemingly innocent 2% will create an even bigger problem with drug resistance or in this case toxin resistance spreading later on.
not rated yet Jul 17, 2012
do they actually show some kind of resistance to the toxins

Of course not, Kevin. That would be blasphemous. That would require evolution, which we all know doesn't ever happen.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.